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Wentworth ‘moving on’ from rejected hub school bid

WENTWORTH, N.S. – The community of Wentworth has drummed up a hub full of vindication against the school board and province that shut down its elementary school two years ago.

“We’re moving on,” said Rick Parker, a member of the committee that in 2015 presented an unsuccessful plan for a school/business hub at the Wentworth Consolidated building.

“It’s frustrating when you see the province putting $50 million into pre-primary care and all we needed was a little bit of support to keep our school going. I think we had a pretty good business case to keep it going and we could have had some pre-primary here. We have six to eight four-year-olds that we identified just last night within a short distance of the school.

“That still gnaws at us but we’ve got to try to move on and make the most we can for the kids here.”

The gnawing comes from the hard work that groups in Wentworth, River John and Maitland put together to convince the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board two years ago that the schools there could stay open and remain viable as hubs that offered schooling, commercial entities and community programs all under one roof.

The board instead ruled that all three schools and their hub proposals should go.

The people in Wentworth bought the school there for $1 from the Municipality of Cumberland County after the building was deemed expendable by the board.

“We set up a learning centre co-operative and I’m on the board of that fledgling organization,” Parker said. “Initially our goal was to establish an independent school for grades Primary to 3. We started down that road to determine what would be involved. It may be something in the future that evolves but I don’t know if it’s viable or not. It means parents would have to pay a pretty substantial fee as all independent schools are self-funded. There is no government funding for them.”

The Wentworth Learning Centre Co-operative has set that goal aside for now as the community begrudgingly watches its children spend an hour or more on buses en route to schools in Pugwash, Oxford and Tatamagouche.

“We are first off getting the building into more usable condition. We found that the $160,000 of roof repairs that the school board claimed as one of the reasons for closing it aren’t really required, at this point, anyway.”

In the meantime, the co-op has been fundraising and developing programs from Girl Guides to a community library, and the building is home to the local municipal councillor’s office. A small business is in the process of setting up at the school and a group of 60 students, parents and seniors will bus from the school to the Eastlink Centre in Truro on Friday to do some wall climbing and swimming. The group is trying to develop pre-school and after-school programs for the kids.

The irony is that the building is hosting most of the elements that the school board identified as necessary criteria for a hub school, aside from classroom learning.

River John Consolidated did not fare as well as Wentworth after hearing the board’s death knell.

When the battle to keep the school open was lost, parents in the Pictou County community were forced to send their children on buses to North Colchester High in Tatamagouche, Northumberland Regional High in Westville, Scotsburn Elementary, Tatamagouche Elementary or West Pictou Consolidated in Lyons Brook.

The building was turned over to the Municipality of Pictou County and the school is to be demolished.

In Hants County, the shuttered Maitland District Elementary was purchased privately by Mike and Linda Frigault after it was turned over to the Municipality of East Hants.

Students from Maitland are now bused to Cobequid District in Noel, Hilden Elementary or Kennetcook District School.

– By Francis Campbell – The Chronicle Herald


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