Community suggests ways to improve school review process

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TRURO – Local residents have many suggestions on how to improve the school review process.

Crystal Bushen, of Wentworth, would like to see students come before budgets when schools are being considered for closure. Bushen was one of about 50 people who attended a public meeting on the school review process that was held in Truro on Thursday night. Monique Chiasson – Truro Daily News

The provincial government has been studying how schools are reviewed and potentially chosen for closure. There has been plenty of discontent with the process by the public, some school board officials and other interested parties. As the government prepares to implement a new process, public input was sought to help with the initiative.

Crystal Bushen, of Wentworth, said the welfare of students has to be placed ahead of finances when making decisions about school closures.

“It’s all cost-savings. Students aren’t put first,” Bushen said during a public feedback meeting in Truro on Thursday night. “The school board appears to be balancing their budgets by closing schools.”

Wentworth Consolidated Elementary is up for closure in 2015 unless the community can come up with additional resources to keep it open.

Rick Parker, also from Wentworth, said the decision to potentially close the elementary school was “made under a flawed process … not fair, just and not open.”

Parker believes school boards have a say in the decision-making process, but “if it can be shown the board was negligent … didn’t fulfill its responsibility … there has to be an avenue to appeal.”

Other public concerns that came from the crowd of about 50 included how frustrating it is to participate in a public process when the information isn’t accepted.

Heidi Sexton spoke about being on the site selection committee for a new primary to Grade 4 school in Bible Hill to replace Bible Hill Central and Bible Hill East Court Road elementary schools.

“We already told the government where the school should go … it seems silly to have to do this all over again,” Sexton said in reference to the committee’s two suggestions to the provincial government regarding where the new Bible Hill school should be located. The government rejected the suggestions because only two, instead of three, were offered.

“We didn’t feel there was another viable option … I feel there should be a little more flexibility” in the process, Sexton told the Truro Daily News.

Masstown’s Laurie Jennings, who has been designated as a community representative who will provide public input to the government, added “we can’t have winners and losers” but must all work together.

Other comments from the public included the need for academic performance as part of school review processes, the system needs to be more flexible, municipalities and communities need to have a greater role in the process, along with easier access to information, and the overall process takes too long.

There will be nine public meetings held with information and recommendations taken to Education Minister Karen Casey next month.

Twitter: tdnMonique

Organizations: Grade 4 school, Bible Hill school, Truro Daily News

Geographic location: Truro, Bible Hill East Court Road

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