An un­set­tled be­gin­ning

Ox­ford stu­dents start school year in Pugwash fa­cil­ity

The Amherst News - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAR­RELL COLE AMHERST NEWS

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 orecinfo@ccrce.ca 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.”

DAR­RELL COLE – AMHERST NEWS

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.

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