Dorch­ester Con­sol­i­dated School avoids clo­sure

DEC votes to keep doors open but is­sues warn­ing to com­mu­nity not to be­come com­pla­cent

Sackville Tribune - - NEWS - BY KATIE TOWER STAFF RE­PORTER

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

TOWER PHOTO

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.

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