‘ This is a 50-year solution’
School board urged to take time with New Waterford consolidation.
The merger of three New Waterford elementary schools should not be carried out until 2017, according to recommendations made to the district school board.
Members of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board were presented with the findings and recommendations of the school options committee for the New Waterford family of schools at a public meeting on Tuesday evening at the Breton Education Centre library.
To nobody’s surprise, the 36 people who attended the session heard the committee recommend the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board permanently close two (St. Agnes and Mount Carmel) of its three remaining elementary schools with all P-5 students moving to the newer Greenfield school in Scotchtown.
However, while there were far fewer contentious issues in New Waterford than in other school areas, committee chair Chris Hillier was adamant that the consolidation not take place until 2017 at the earliest.
And he wasn’t pleased that the board technical report response stated that a September 2016 merger is a possibility. The report said that Greenfield’s 20 classrooms provide enough space to house next year’s estimated enrolment of P-5 students in New Waterford.
“They have to put the kids first — six months is an awful short time,” said Hillier. “Although it may be technically possible, this is a 50-year solution for New Waterford, so to take a year to plan it and do it right will benefit us for the next 50 years.”
The committee, comprised of representatives from the area’s four schools and the community in general, suggested that students from all three elementary schools spent some of the 20162017 school year in programs with each other as a way of easing the transition to a single, consolidated school.
Hillier further told the board that more time is needed to properly study and improve access to the Greenfield school that is located on James Street, just off of the main road leading toward River Ryan.
The closure of the two New Waterford elementary schools is expected to save the board about $600,000 per year in operating costs. However, the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board does not own Greenfield Elementary. It will cost $3.8 million to purchase the school and an additional $1.1 million to upgrade the building.
For its part, the board will hold two more public meetings before it must make some tough decisions as to which schools will close and which will remain open. The Sydney family of schools is up at tonight’s 6:30 p.m. meeting at Sydney Academy, while the Northside schools will be discussed on Monday at 6:30 p.m. at Memorial High School.
Final public meetings on the Riverview and Glace Bay families of schools have already taken place.
Board chair Lorne Green has repeatedly stated that no decisions have been made yet and that all of the input it has received will be considered during the process. The fate of the schools will be known on April 12 when the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board meets at Riverview High School in Coxheath.
The board’s present initiative to deal with declining enrolments, excess space and increased costs dates back to April 2013 when the board released its Looking Inward report that examined school feasibility in the district.
New Waterford school options committee chair Chris Hillier, right, outlines the advisory group’s recommendations for members of the Cape BretonVictoria Regional School Board during a public meeting on Wednesday evening at Breton Education Centre.
The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board has been told it makes sense to close two New Waterford elementary schools and to consolidate all of the area’s P-5 students at Greenfield Elementary in Scotchtown.