The decision was made during a special meeting of the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board last night to continue with the process for both Bass River and Maitland District elementary schools. Also up for review are East Pictou Middle School, River John Consolidated and Wentworth Elementary. The schools were identified on a list of about 16 schools last fall.
Although the schools are proceeding to a public hearing, it doesn't mean that closures are imminent.
“I do believe we will get extra information from the schools and the public from these hearings, which will be instrumental in the board making its decision,” said board member Vivian Farrell of Pictou, who added schools are the hearts of their communities.
“We’ve tried to support these schools as much as we can and I want us to go to each school to get the feeling for what people have to say and see what their perspectives are.”
As one of almost 50 people in the audience, Owen Roberts was both “disappointed and surprised” by the decision to move ahead with the review process for all five schools, but especially Maitland district.
“There were some negative points about tonight, especially the fact that the motions were put through very quickly, without any discussion,” Roberts, a concerned community member, said. “But afterward there were some heartfelt words that I would agree with.”
Sitting on the board, Truro’s Susan MacQuarrie brought up her own experience with attending high school outside of her residential area.
“By the end of it, our bus ride was an hour and we didn’t like it,” she said, about her time attending school in Kennetcook. “I can’t imagine a four- or five-year-old getting on the bus for an hour. I don’t like it.”
MacQuarrie said the board is being forced to make numerous cuts because funding for education has declined.
“It seems like the financial scenario is being held higher than doing what is best for the kids.”
All five public hearings will be held in their respective communities before March 24. Members of the public will have a chance to voice their concerns either in person or in writing.