TRURO – Bus routes and unexpected building repairs are among issues that must not be forgotten when deciding the fate of area schools, say school board officials.
Sandy Lynds, co-ordinator of pupil transportation with the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board, said if Maitland District Elementary School closes, some significant changes could occur to that busing route.
“The way we do it now we may not be able to do it, especially if we go to Kennetcook we may need another bus and driver … that’s a worst-case scenario,” said Lynds.
That could mean children in that area would be split up and taken on two buses – one to Cobequid District Elementary School in Noel or Kennetcook District Elementary School. School board members were told at a board committee meeting this week that it could cost $53,000 if another bus was needed.
Susan MacQuarrie, a school board member who represents Truro, said that would contradict a plan to save money.
“That’s not saving a heck of a lot,” said MacQuarrie.
Board communications spokeswoman Debbie Buott-Matheson told the Truro Daily News children going to Maitland elementary currently are on the bus anywhere between a few minutes to 50 minutes, depending on where they live. If the school closes, some children could be on a bus closer to an hour.
Busing would not change in Bass River if the elementary school closed and children were sent to West Colchester Consolidated School. The facilities are only 400 metres apart.
Valerie Gauthier, director of financial services, said if the Bass River elementary school closed there would be a saving to the board of more than $27,000 and the teachers in that school would “retain their jobs.”
Gauthier warned, however, there is always the question of the unexpected finances, such as maintenance requirements, with older buildings.
“There is no easy decision,” said Gauthier, adding about $1 million could be saved if the Bass River and Maitland elementary schools, along with Wentworth and River John Consolidated schools and East Pictou Middle School closed. That money could go towards an expected shortfall of $1.8 million the board is facing in its upcoming budget.
“This may be part of your solution. If not, something else will be.”
Board superintendent Gary Clarke reiterated the board will “take due diligence with the budget for savings.”
The board is to make a final school closure decision by the end of the month. It’s possible the schools’ fate will be determined at the regular monthly school board meeting, which will take place at the Cobequid Educational Centre’s cafeteria in Truro on March 20. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m.
The board will also continue to work on its 2013-2014 budget for a couple of months. One known factor, said Buott-Matheson, is that the 154 retiring teachers province-wide will not replaced.