‘ This is a 50-year so­lu­tion’

School board urged to take time with New Water­ford con­sol­i­da­tion.

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVID JALA david.jala@cb­post.com

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.

DAVID JALA/CAPE BRE­TON POST

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.

DAVID JALA/CAPE BRE­TON POST

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.

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