4 Nova Scotia schools saved from the chopping block

4 Nova Scotia schools saved from the chopping block

Four elementary schools in two separate school boards will remain open — despite being slated for closure.

The Strait Regional and Chigencto-Central school boards each held special meetings last night.

A unanimous decision by the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board saved Maple Ridge and Shubenacadie Elementary.

The Strait Regional School Board saved the Antigonish Education Centre and H.M. MacDonald Elementary School.

The Chignecto-Central board also recommends the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development purchase Maple Ridge Elementary School, a P3 facility, from the private owner Nova Schools. The lease for that school ends in 2019. 

As well, the Strait Regional School Board wants the province to purchase the Antigonish Education Centre.

Low enrolment, renovations needed

Low enrolment and extensive renovations led to the Chigencto-Central schools being put on the chopping block, and parents were worried it could mean longer bus rides for their children. 

The 53-year-old Shubenacadie Elementary is currently only operating at 35 per cent capacity with 156 students. It's currently undergoing hundreds of thousands of dollars in renovations.

Built in 1999, Maple Ridge is at about 70 per cent capacity with 245 students.

Parents quickly gathered more than a thousand signatures on a petition to save the two Chigencto-Central schools.

"Your kids read you like a book," said Kathy Robson, who has a five-year-old attending Shubenacadie Elementary.

"I'm going home to tell him that mommy will no longer have to worry about a whole lot of thing's he's been having to hear about at home."

Chigencto-Central seeing lots of growth

The closures were seen as short sighted by some parent's, with residential development planned in the Chigencto-Central area, extra classroom space could be filled in the coming years. 

The so-called East Hants corridor runs from Enfield to Shubenacadie and over the last two decades has been a fast growing area in the province.

More development and a new highway interchange were seen by some parents as case-makers for keeping the schools open. 

But according to Robson, it was an impassioned plea by the chief of the Pictou Landing first nation, Andrea Paul that ultimately swung the board in the direction of the status quo.

"She had an opportunity to meet with some of the First Nations parents at the school last week," said Robson.

Paul explained the importance of Shubenacadie Elementary's role in connecting the Sipekne'katik First Nation with the surrounding community and said it was a relationship carefully cultivated over a number of years, and one that wouldn't be easily repaired if the school was forced to close.

"I think at that point there really wasn't a lot of question[s] left," said Robson.