Summer break to start early for Eliot River, Montague Consolidated students

·4 min read
Renovations have been ongoing at Montague Consolidated School throughout the year, but contractors need more time to do work that cannot be completed with students in the building. (Nicola MacLeod/CBC - image credit)
Renovations have been ongoing at Montague Consolidated School throughout the year, but contractors need more time to do work that cannot be completed with students in the building. (Nicola MacLeod/CBC - image credit)

Summer break will come early this year for students at Montague Consolidated and Eliot River schools.

It was announced in the fall that both schools would be closing early due to ongoing renovations that could not be completed over the summer or with students in the schools.

At the time, the Public Schools Branch (PSB) said it was considering online learning in order for students to still get their instructional time.

"Some instructional minutes were added to both school days at both locations, so effectively, schools are done of their learning on June 10," said Norbert Carpenter, PSB director.

"This is unusual. This doesn't happen. And we're excited about the renovations at both schools because they're well needed, but we do realize that puts families in a bit of a bind."

The branch conducted surveys in Montague and Cornwall and asked parents to reach out in order to assess if families were struggling with the early closure and finding child care.

"We heard from some parents for sure. We didn't hear from as many as one would expect because part of the plan was to communicate early to the communities and to the families," he said.

"Many were able to make arrangements within their own family so they didn't require extra child care for that time."

We're just excited to get the work completed. — Norbert Carpenter

He said they heard from about 100 families in each community who were looking for additional assistance.

"We partnered with the Department of Education and the early childhood sector to see if they could help and through the direction of the [Education] Minister, some funding was allocated for families," Carpenter said.

Families are eligible for up to $125 per child, per week to help with child-care costs for the 10 school days from June 12 to 25.

"There's a process that families can apply to receive some funding and also have some options in both communities," Carpenter said.

Families who hire a babysitter or send their child to an unlicensed camp or program can apply for the funding, while licensed childcare centres will receive payment directly from the province and families will not need to apply.

Child care centres, camps expanding operations to accommodate 

In Montague, one of those licensed options is BGC — formerly known as the Boys and Girls Club.

"We are expanding our walls to bring in some more kids because Montague Consolidated is closing," said Caroline Burton, the organization's revenue development manager.

"Being able to offer this care for families, regardless of financial barriers, is really the whole point, right? We want to serve the children no matter if you can pay or not. And that's why we're here, so I think it is really meaningful to families and it's just what we do here," she said.

Nicola MacLeod/CBC
Nicola MacLeod/CBC

Burton said taking in families for subsidized child care is not new. About 67 per cent of BGC families are using a combination of subsidies and bursaries to cover the cost of child care.

BGC Montague will move a couple of doors down to the Wellness Centre for the summer in order to accommodate 50 kids, up from the 25 they can house in their regular space.

"I think families are ready for summer and ready for that summer programming and this is a nice kind of transition into that," Burton said.

The last day of classes for students at Montague Consolidated and Eliot River is in two weeks.

At school pickup in Montague on Thursday, all of the parents who spoke to CBC News said they were okay with the year ending early and that ultimately the work needs to be completed on the outdated school.

In the fall, Carpenter said the PSB was initially given the option of conducting the work for the multi-year project in June or September of this year.

"We're just excited to get the work completed," he said.

"It's been a challenge and we're thankful to all our partners and the parents and the staff and the communities for being flexible."

The PSB anticipates the work will be completed on time and students will be back in their classrooms in September.

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