‘Sad to see it go down’
Community dreams of a youth centre at former St. Agnes School go up in smoke
The former St. Agnes School in New Waterford is gone and so are the dreams of many residents that a youth centre would be put in that location.
The building was destroyed by a fire on Sunday that took firefighters almost 10 hours to extinguish.
Some residents were hopeful the local landmark would be home to a new youth centre.
Paul Wilton is one of those residents. An operations manager for the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, the father of seven was part of the crew that cleaned out the school after it closed, and he saw the potential in it.
“It was a beautiful gym. It would have been a good spot for a youth centre,” he says. “Sad to see it go down. It’s heartbreaking.
“Folks in New Waterford are looking forward to getting something for the youth to keep them out of the drugs and the trouble.
“They have to be given something to do.”
Over the years Wilton has been very active in helping raise money
for things like playgrounds in the area.
Usually he works with other community members on these different initiatives and says he does regularly visit the basketball courts and playgrounds to make sure they aren’t being vandalized or beaten up.
“I’m all for that drive to make things change,” explains Wilton. He gets a little sombre as he continues.
“Just like the effort to stop all the drug issues. The level of drugs out there is scary. One time they try it and you could be losing a
kid.” However, the idea to turn the former St. Agnes School into a youth centre seemed to be a community-driven one and not one that had any government involvement.
Kendra Coombes, regional councillor for District 11, says she was never told there was any interest in turning the former school into a youth centre. While she is supportive of the initiative to get a youth centre in New Waterford, she thinks the location of the former school isn’t ideal.
“In my opinion, it was far away from the schools and once they’re home (the students), you’re not going to get them back.
“It was probably hopeful, wishful thinking on their part (community members),” she says.
However, Wilton is hopeful that the fire at the former St. Agnes School will inspire people to really consider the need for a youth centre in the area, regardless of the location.
“Not one person can do it. It’s gotta be the whole community, gotta be the parents getting involved,” he says.
Cape Breton Regional Police are confirming the fire at St. Agnes School is suspicious since there was no power source in the building and it was vacant.
An investigation is being done by the fire marshal’s office, Forensic Identification Unit as well as the arson unit with the Cape Breton Regional Police Services. More information will be released after the investigation.
Graffiti can be seen on the wall left standing after the devastating fire at the former St. Agnes School.
All that remains is debris after a fire destroyed half of the former St. Agnes School in New Waterford. Crews are busy cleaning up and estimate they will finish today.