Community school council shut out of Wentworth school

Darrell Cole, The Amherst News
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School board changes locks, security code

WENTWORTH – Members of a Wentworth Alcoholics Anonymous group were surprised to find the locks changed when they attempted to attend their weekly meeting at the community’s elementary school last Sunday.

Members of the Wentworth community school council are crying foul after learning the CCRSB had changed the locks to the elementary school at the end of June.

“The key would not open the door, the locks had all been changed and for the first time in 20 years they were denied access to the building,” community school council member Laurel Adams said Tuesday.

Adams said AA had meetings at the elementary school as part of the Wentworth Community School Program that has used the building after hours for more than 30 years.

She said the council had been notified that there was to be no activities in the school during July because cleaning was taking place, but the AA group showed up on Sunday to collect their materials and supplies and move them to what they thought would be a temporary location at the Wentworth United Church.

“Meanwhile, in its wisdom the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board had decided that a community presence in the school building was a threat to the safety and security of students and staff at the school,” Adams said, adding that was the wording of a letter from the board to the community school council.

Adams said the board told the council it wanted to confiscate its keys and that the locks and security codes at the school would be changed.

“Volunteers for the council were not informed when the work was to take place or contacted and given time to remove their belongings,” she said.

Adams said the school has been an important site for community meetings and activities since it first opened in 1959. She said a community presence in the school was never an issue before and she can’t understand how it would present a risk to students and staff.

She said the AA group will continue to meet in the church basement without its supporting materials.

Wentworth Elementary is one of three schools the board has targeted for closure because of declining enrolment. The board has delayed its closure decision until next March to give people in the three communities to study the hub school concept and come up with proposals for shared use of school facilities.

Boards spokeswoman Debbie Buott-Matheson said the community will still have access to the building during the school year, but will have to use the newer community use agreement.

“The council was sent a letter in June letting them know in a short period of time that the locks were going to be changed,” Buott-Matheson said. “They were operating under an agreement they signed in 1999 that was outside our use of school facilities policy. The last several years there have been some issues with a lot of keys being out in the community and a lot of people having security code access and people going in and using the facility and not telling the principal.”

Buott-Matheson said the move was never made to shut the community out of the school, but was meant to get the situation under control and put the facility use agreement in place.

“If anyone wants to use the school they go to the principal and fill out a facility use permit and the principal and the family of schools supervisor will decide if it’s something that’s appropriate,” she said. “The situation with AA is unfortunate and it’s certainly not something we wanted to happen. We did let the council know at the end of June that there wouldn’t be any access for the summer because they were stripping the floors. The plan was to talk to them about the facility use agreement in September.”

She said the council should have informed community users that the building would not be available. She said an operations foreman will be in contact with a council member to set a date for AA to get its materials from the school.

darrell.cole@tc.tc

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

Organizations: AA, Wentworth Community School, Wentworth United Church Central Regional School Board

Geographic location: Chignecto

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Recent comments

  • Kathy
    July 23, 2014 - 11:11

    what a lot of - whatever you want to call it, there are only 4 keys out - no one has ever done any damage to the school, a lot of the stuff in the school was fundraised and put in there by community schools, first they had to move the cap site out, the libray - these are people that are trying to use the school for community events - clubs etc. I am totally appalled - that after 30 years of the community being able to utilize this space - (by the way it is funded by our tax dollars.) time for a shake up either on the school level , school board or Department of Education. there is no truth to any of the comments made by the CCRSB spokes person.

  • Stephen Ferdinand
    July 23, 2014 - 10:32

    This is just more of the same from C.C.R.S.B. Since the beginning of the school review process, the board has spun its web of deceit to its elected members and the public. They never mention that the declining enrolment, nearly one third of the student body transfered to other schools, was caused by their mis-handling of a serious and protracted situation at the school. This is just the next step in their determined effort to close Wentworth Elementary. The Community School Council as it exists, has unwittingly obeyed the new guidelines, and any mis-communication has been on the side of the board, not on the side of the council. The council simply hasn't the means to fight a publicity war with government. There have been zero complaints of security breaches, damage or theft during the existence of the Community School Council. Many, if not all members have already submitted to background and criminal checks. This concern is more invented than needed. Like the removal of courtesy busing for transfer students, (transfers approved by board) this is just one more way to drive people away from the school. They pretend to welcome the community into the school, then obstruct as much as possible. Sadly, no level of government sees fit to hold them accountable.