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Editorial: Stop playing games with schools


It’s unfortunate when government chooses votes over practicality when deciding where to build new schools in Nova Scotia.

For Springhill, without a member on the government side of the legislature, that means a longer wait for students going to a pair of elementary schools that have long since passed their prime.

For Springhill, without a member on the government side of the legislature, that means a longer wait for students going to a pair of elementary schools that have long since passed their prime.

Last December, Cumberland South MLA Jamie Baillie said it was disgraceful for the Liberal government to continue to overlook Springhill’s aging schools in favour of building schools in Tatamagouche and Bridgetown. One of those schools is in the riding of Education Minister Karen Casey and the other in Premier Stephen McNeil’s.

Baillie said Auditor General Michael Pickup noted in his report last December that government ignored objective rankings of new schools and had cabinet intervene to fund the schools in those two communities.

On Thursday the PC leader was again fuming after the province’s capital plan ignored Springhill’s deteriorating schools in favour of another school the Halifax riding of a Liberal MLA – this despite the fact J.L. Ilsley High School has already seen millions in renovations in recent years.

Even though the Halifax Regional School Board didn’t recommend its replacement, Casey said replacing the school makes sense because it has a long history of issues, including heating problems and a leaky roof. So too do Springhill’s schools, but government hasn’t rushed to replace them with a new building.

It would be easy to accuse Baillie of using the schools in Springhill to score political points with the electorate, who will likely be heading to the polls to cast ballots in a provincial election in a few months. Even if he is, he is pointing out something that is terribly wrong with how school projects are assessed and decided. It’s a process that reeks of politics, it always has.

It was 2009 when the former PC government of Rodney MacDonald bypassed a century-old school in Amherst in favour of schools in Truro and New Glasgow even though the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board had the Amherst school ranked much higher when it came to replacement. Fortunately, a strong campaign got a commitment to replace West Highlands and that school’s students are now in a modern facility.

Springhill’s two elementary schools are aging. They are cramped, lack sufficient gymnasiums, have had numerous plumbing issues and have roofs that leak consistently. There has to be a way so school projects are properly judged based on physical need and not to reward a long-serving MLA or cabinet minister or to win votes in the next election. Children should not be forced to serve as pawns the political game.

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