© Karla Kelly
Julie Desjardins, member of the School Steering Team at Weymouth Consolidated expresses her concern over lack of communication by the board.
By Eric Bourque
A parent who was involved in the fight to keep Weymouth Consolidated School open encourages those with something to say about the school review process to express their views.
Julie Desjardins was responding to the announcement that the province was to begin consultations on the school review process in December, with a series of public meetings planned for January.
“People who want their schools to remain need to be involved in this process,” Desjardins said. “Don’t wait until the school is being reviewed. If you have an opinion now on how schools should be reviewed in the future, voice it.”
She also says the meeting schedule announced Nov. 26 by Karen Casey, Nova Scotia’s education minister, doesn’t give school advisory councils much time to prepare.
“Many (SACs) don’t meet in December, which really only leaves about three weeks in January to have a meeting and get our thoughts, concerns and ideas on paper to submit,” Desjardins said.
The education minister’s announcement came with the release of a discussion paper on the school review process.
Desjardins says one of the things that frustrated her with the review of Weymouth Consolidated School was that Saint Mary’s Bay Academy – where students from Weymouth Consolidated would have gone had their school been closed – was left out of the process, despite the potential impact on it.
Referring to the discussion paper, she said, “I don’t see anything in the report that indicates any change in acknowledging that when you are affecting not only one school, the other school (or schools) should also be an official part of the review process.”
Desjardins offered some thoughts on some of the paper’s discussion topics, including one concerning “clear consistent indicators” for identifying schools for review.
Saying their school community was “blindsided” when Weymouth Consolidated was put under review, she said if specific criteria were spelled out, school communities at least would be aware that a review is possible.
On the matter of “better supporting information” (another discussion topic in the paper) Desjardins says she and others who were involved in the effort to keep Weymouth Consolidated open spent a good deal of time gathering information that turned out to contradict what was in an impact assessment report that had been prepared for the school board.
With regard to another of the paper’s discussion topics, Desjardins says school boards should consider “innovative roles for schools,” but she adds that communities should support their schools by trying to be innovative too. Schools and other facilities can play a factor, she says, when someone decides where to live.
“If you don’t have these, young people – who buy homes, support local business, generate jobs in rural areas etc. – will not relocate to a community,” she said.