An unsettled beginning
Oxford students start school year in Pugwash facility
As a parent, Shannon Oickle understands the frustrations being expressed by other parents of students at Oxford Regional Education Centre.
But, the president of the school advisory council is urging parents to think about the safety of students and staff.
Recently, the Chignecto-Central Regional Centre for Education announced students in the eight-year-old Primary to Grade 12 school in Oxford will begin the school year in Pugwash due to structural issues discovered during routine maintenance of the school.
“It’s not an ideal situation and I understand there is a lot of frustration out there among parents, but we have to ensure our students and staff are in a safe building,” said Oickle.
A news release from the regional office said the Oxford school was found to have an issue with masonry work and will need to be repaired when students are not present.
Oickle said once engineers get onsite and complete their evaluations of what’s required to fix the mortar there will be a better picture of how long students will
have to be bused to Pugwash. She also stressed it’s important to thank the staff and administration at Pugwash’s two schools for welcoming Oxford’s students.
“Everyone is hoping it’s not a long-term thing. We’re so lucky to have that brand new building and we’re so hopeful that it will be fixed quickly without too much disruption to the school years,” said Oickle, who has a daughter in Grade 11 at OREC. “It is what it is. I’m just glad our children aren’t in there in a potentially dangerous situation. It’s all about keeping the kids safe and the staff safe.”
While some may question whether a move to Pugwash, no matter for how long, would impact the school’s identity, she said the students will still be Oxford – just in a new environment.
Oickle said she has spoken to principal Duane Starratt and was told school administration is taking things step by step as they prepare for the new school year. The equipment and supplies they need to take with them have been prepared while decisions about extra-curricular activities – such as sports - will be made soon.
“It’s inconvenient and tough for parents with child-care issues. It’s certainly a big challenge but at the end of the day we want our children safe and we want our children to learn,” Oickle said.
CCRCE system development supervisor Chris Boulter said in the news release that while he understands moving students and staff to Pugwash is disruptive, “we must err on the side of caution and conduct necessary repairs while the building is empty. Our students and staff safety must always be our top priority.”
Students in Grades Primary to 3 from both Cyrus Eaton and Oxford will attend classes at Cyrus Eaton in Pugwash with the pre-primary classes at both schools also being housed at the Pugwash elementary.
Students in Grades 4 to 6 will attend classes at Pugwash District High in a designated area, while students in Grades 7 to 12 will attend Pugwash District High in a split shift format with Pugwash students attending classes in the morning and those from Oxford in the afternoon.
Start times and bus pick-up times were still being determined at press time.
Parents can emailing firstname.lastname@example.org for further information. Both Cumberland County’s MLAs have called on Education Minister Zach Churchill to provide more details.
Cumberland South MLA Tory Rushton said the upheaval is unacceptable and is calling on government to work “day and night” to ensure the impact is minimal.
“There’s no question that this government can speed things along when it wants to,” Rushton said in a news release. “If it requires round-the-clock shifts from now until the first day of school, it should happen. Shipping our children to Pugwash to receive education is an unacceptable course of action.”
Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin said parents must be told what the plan is for these repairs and how long their children’s education will be disrupted.
“This government has caused chaos to students and parents here,” Smith-McCrossin
said. “I do not question the importance of safety, but parents and students need to be given the full plan. Anything less is unacceptable.”
Students from the Oxford Regional Education Centre are starting the new school year in Pugwash following the identification of structural concerns at the eight-year-old school.