Arcadia Consolidated School. TINA COMEAU/FILE PHOTO
By Tina Comeau
The question of where members of the Tri-County Regional School Board stand on proposed school boundaries is slated to be answered at the board’s Tuesday, Jan. 7, regular monthly meeting.
Jan. 7 is the date that was selected at the start of the boundaries review process last October as to when board members – following public consultation – would make their decision about the boundaries that have been proposed by board staff. The monthly board meeting gets underway at 6 p.m. and will be held at the school board building on Water Street.
The boundaries speak to where elementary students will attend class after Arcadia Consolidated School closes. The proposed boundaries divide the Arcadia School population or nearly 190 students amongst four elementary schools. As proposed, the boundaries would also change where many students attend junior and senior high.
Public feedback – both at a consultation session in October (see video here from that meeting) and in written submissions – has not been in favour of the proposed boundaries.
At the school board’s monthly meeting in early December, board member Ron Hines gave notice that he will bring forward a motion at the Jan. 7 asking the board to delay the closure of Arcadia School. He says there has been too much confusion and upset over the proposed boundaries, in addition to the fact that the school board has not yet confirmed what elementary students will attend a new elementary school in Yarmouth.
The province announced the approval of that elementary school on Dec. 23. The Department of Education says it is up to the school board to determine what students will attend the school and what it’s catchment area will be.
The issue of schools – both being under review and slated for closure – was a big issue dealt with by the school board during the year 2013 that has just come to a close.
In February and March public meetings were held as part of the school review process. At meetings for the Arcadia and South Centennial schools the public overwhelmingly said it did not want to see these schools closed. The mood was somewhat different at Central School, which welcomed the idea of closing the elementary school if it meant a new, more modern facility for its students.
At a March 26 meeting, the Tri-County Regional School Board voted to close all three elementary schools. About a week later, the province’s then-education minister Ramona Jennex said the province would review the school review process – a process she called flawed. School boards were asked to suspend the school review process until a new process is in place following public consultation.
While school boards didn’t put any more schools up for review, many opted to proceed with the school closure plans they had in place, including the Tri-County board.
Recently the new education minister, Karen Casey, released a public discussion paper that will form the basis of public meetings and public input for the review of the school review process. Those public meetings will take place in many parts of the province, with one being held in Yarmouth at the high school on Forest Street on the evening of Jan. 14.
Meanwhile, back around the Tri-County Regional School Board table board members and board staff have reiterated that the closure of Arcadia School, which for now is planned to occur at the end of this school year, is a completely separate issue from the proposed boundaries that the school board must decide on. But the public has pointed out that if Arcadia School was not closing, the discussion over the proposed boundaries that has been underway since October would not be taking place.
(You can also read Tina Comeau's column: When you ask for feedback, shouldn't you use it? where she tries to understand the purpose of a December special board meeting by clicking here.)
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