Guidelines still don’t give enough time to consider hub school for Wentworth

Darrell Cole, The Amherst News
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WENTWORTH - The province has released the guidelines for the proposed hub school concept that could save a number of rural schools in the province.

While the province’s rules for implementing the hub school concept in several rural schools has been released just over a month early, the spokeswoman for the group trying to save Wentworth Elementary still doesn’t think there’s enough time.

“It’s nice to finally have it, but it’s going to take some time to go through it and it really doesn’t change anything from what we said in June,” Linda Patriquin said. “There’s just not enough time to do all the work that’s necessary, and you can do all the work and still have the board pull the feet out from under you.”

On Monday, Education Minister Karen Casey released the guidelines and criteria for the hub school model in response to comments heard by Bob Fowler, who led the school review process study last winter.

“I know there are some communities working on their proposal to strengthen the role of their school and offering more access to students and their families,” the minister said in a news release. “This is another step in restoring trust in the school review process by giving parents and communities more options to work with boards to ensure schools remain an important part of the community for years to come.”

The guidelines clearly spell out what a school can and can’t be used for. The guidelines for making a proposal must demonstrate how they can support an environment that is in the best interests of students, that does not negatively impact student learning and engagement, supports improved service delivery for families and communities and has no increase to capital or operational costs for the board.

Eligible partners could be other levels of government, community organizations, sport and recreation, arts and culture groups and local businesses that provide services to families, students and children.

It’s up to the school board to evaluate and determine if a proposal is suitable based on criteria including the health and safety of staff and students, the school’s ability to deliver the public school program, the proposed use is appropriate for the school setting and respects the vision and mission of the school, it aligns with the policies and long-range plan of the school board and it makes reasonable and appropriate use of public infrastructure.

The timeline for communities to prepare a proposal will be at least eight months. The boards will have up to two months to consider a request and will also have the option to extend the time frame where necessary.

“Time is very, very limited. They want complete business plans and a lot more information, but we feel there just isn’t enough time to properly do that,” Patriquin said. “We’d have to look at what we’d have to do the building and it can’t cost the board anything to renovate. You’re probably looking at fire exit changes and parking changes. How are we supposed to have that done in the time we’ve been given?”

Patriquin said members of the Wentworth School Sustainability Association will be meeting to discuss the guidelines.

In June, the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board rejected a ministerial recommendation to delay the closure of three schools until 2016 to give the province more time to consider what hub schools will look like and to hear feedback on plans for such centres within the designated schools and for continued insight on school review processes.

Instead, the board passed a motion saying it will make a decision on Wentworth, River John and Maitland in March – although it could opt to extend that deadline.

darrell.cole@tc.tc

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

Organizations: Wentworth School Sustainability Association, Central Regional School Board

Geographic location: Chignecto, River John

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