Dorchester Consolidated School avoids closure
DEC votes to keep doors open but issues warning to community not to become complacent
MONCTON, N.B. – Dorchester Consolidated School is safe – at least for now.
Members of the Anglophone East District Education Council voted unanimously last week in favour of keeping the doors of DCS open during their monthly meeting at Bernice MacNaughton High School in Moncton.
The decision came as a welcome relief for parents, students and staff and other community members who have been rallying to save their school for the past two months after learning its fate was on the line.
“It’s kind of a win for rural New Brunswick,” said Joshua Cormier, a member of the local Save Our School committee, following the DEC’s verdict.
Cormier was one of about 60 Dorchesterarea residents who made the trip to Moncton via a rented bus last Tuesday evening for the meeting.
“It’s the decision we were hoping for ... and it’s good to see they (DEC council members) had open minds,” he said.
Cormier said he believes an influencing factor in the DEC’s decision likely had to do with the presentations made by the community during a public meeting earlier this month, at which local residents had an opportunity to convince the district why the school should remain open.
“I’m proud of every single person who presented and what they were able to do,” he said.
The DEC members all agreed they were impressed with the ideas presented at that public meeting, which weighed heavily in their decision to “maintain the status quo” of the school. But they also issued words of warning to the Dorchester community – turn those words into action or you might be facing the same situation again in a few years.
“If we do decide to maintain the status quo, I would ask that the community band together and do what they said they were going to do,” said Coun. John Gallant, who spoke during the meeting via Skype.
Vice-chair Roberta Brewer agreed, saying she was pleased the way the community rallied and came together with some great options to keep the school from closing – which included the potential of opening up an afterschool daycare, a preschool program and/or a multi-cul- tural centre, among other ideas.
“These are all things, if given time, you can bring into your school,” said Brewer. “We’re now giving you that time. My challenge to you is to get out there and do it.”
Coun. Wayne Feindel – a former mayor and retired school teacher of the village – made the motion to “maintain the status quo” and said he was proud of the way the community came together, despite the tight timeline they were given.
“I was looking for public engagement and I got it,” he said. “And this kind of commitment from our citizens will only strengthen our communities.
The Dorchester community only learned two months ago that DCS was one of two schools chosen as part of this year’s Anglophone East School District sustainability study. The study came as a result of a directive from the provincial government asking the local DEC to find efficiencies and savings within its schools. The deadline to come up with the first round of savings was set for the end of April, with any actions to be taken by the start of the next school year.
DCS was chosen because it was identified as being well below enrolment capacity, with only 65 students enrolled this school year in a school designed for over 250.
Feindel urged his fellow residents to be thankful for this reprieve and not to “rest on your laurels” to ensure DCS does not come on the chopping block again.
Dorchester’s Sara Boyce said she doesn’t intend to let that happen.
“There are changes we need to make ... and you’ve given us a little bit of a lease on life,” said Boyce following the vote.
Mayor JJ Bear also applauded the DEC for the decision, saying “you gave us a wake-up call and we want to thank you for that.”
He said the community now has a lot of work ahead to ensure the doors of the school remain open.
Amanda Feindel said she’s relieved the many hours of effort put into the presentations weren’t for naught, pointing out it’s a “phenomenal group of people” who have been working to stop the closure.
“Now we have to get the ball rolling ... there are a lot of good options out there,” she said. “We have been complacent. So this is our swift kick in the pants.”
Planning for Fall Fair gets underway
Dorchester and area residents applaud during last Tuesday’s Anglophone East District Education Council meeting in Moncton after council members voted unanimously in favour of keeping the village’s school open.