Pictou Academy building to close, but the name is sticking around

Pictou Academy building to close, but the name is sticking around

The building that currently houses Pictou Academy will be closing, but its name — and students — will remain in town.

The Chignecto Central Regional School Board voted Wednesday make some changes that would see students from Pictou Academy moved to other schools in the town. 

The changes will see Grade 9 to Grade 12 students switched over Dr. Thomas McCulloch school, which will soon be renamed Pictou Academy.

The board also voted to make Pictou Elementary School a Primary to Grade 8 school. The vote was 13 in favour and four against.

The change ensures the town is in compliance with legislation from 1816 that states there must always be a Pictou Academy in Pictou, and ends the possibility of sending local students to Northumberland Regional High School, 17 kilometres outside the town.

Tense meeting

The board had launched a review process of the elementary, junior high and high school last fall. Staff had suggested making Pictou Elementary a primary to Grade 8 school and moving all students in Grades 9 to 12 — currently attending Pictou Academy — to Northumberland Regional High School.

That would also have entailed asking the province to repeal the 1816 legislation in order to close Pictou Academy.

"These meetings always tend to be tense and they always balanced on the edge of a knife but I think this evening, by keeping students Grade Primary to 12 in the Town of Pictou, I think the attendees were at least somewhat pleased with the decision," said school board spokeswoman Debbie Buott Matheson.

'We have succeeded'

The changes will take place at the start of the 2017-2018 school year which begins in September, the school board said in a news release Wednesday night.

Noella Martin, the chair of the Pictou Academy Educational Foundation and a Pictou Academy graduate, said the board's decision is mostly a win.

"The good news is we have succeeded in keeping Grades P to 12 in the Town of Pictou and having a school called Pictou Academy," said Martin.

"This is not the ideal configuration so we will be continuing to monitor it ... we have a statutory mandate to really protect Pictou Academy. We will certainly be monitoring this to ensure that it does continue to deliver the best possible education for our students."

Council to decide building's fate

The foundation has $1 million at the ready from very "generous benefactors" of the 201-year-old school.

The original Pictou Academy building will be declared surplus and returned to the Town of Pictou. It's unclear what council will do with the building.

"We've got a vibrant mayor and council and I'm hopeful they can develop some innovative uses for it," Martin said.

The meeting Wednesday night was well attended, Martin said, with well over 100 people from all over the province who have roots in Pictou. She said the mood was "very concerned" because the school is such "an integral part of the town."

"Losing Pictou Academy would have been devastating so naturally there was some concern because that was a possible outcome here this evening," Martin said.