Parents group from Arcadia School wants minister to deny site selection process exemption

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Tina Comeau
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By Tina Comeau

THE VANGUARD

www.thevanguard.ca

 

Some parents who fought to keep Arcadia Consolidated School open are asking the province’s education minister not to grant Tri-County Regional School Board an exemption to the site selection process for a new elementary school.

Doing so, they say, robs all three schools up for closure the chance for input on where a new school should be located.

In a motion the board made at its last monthly meeting to seek an extension, it identifies the former Yarmouth Junior High School location on Parade Street as the suitable site for the new school.

Parents at Arcadia School don’t dispute the site as being a good one for consideration, but they feel the board should still allow the site selection process to proceed.

While it’s known that students and staff from Central and South Centennial elementary schools – which are also slated for closure  – will all attend a new elementary school, it is still up in the air as to where students from Arcadia will go, and in what numbers.

“The whole idea of going for the exemption, to me, was the wrong way to go because we need to heal, we need to grow from this process,” says Arcadia School parent John Levac. “Three schools are going to close . . . so we needed to come to the table as a group and decide what we were going to do.”

The Central School advisory council recently sent a letter to the town of Yarmouth asking council to endorse the former junior high school as the preferred location for the new school. Council supported this request.

But Levac feels there are questions that need to be answered about a site before it is offered as an option to the minister.

“What are we going to lose? Are we going to have to give up some playground space for our kids? I don’t want a site where we’re going to make do,” he said.

That the junior high building has a large gym that can be incorporated into a new school is appealing to the board, as is the reduced busing costs from being located in the town.

As part of changes that have been made to the site selection process, if a new school is replacing one of more existing schools, than one of those school locations has to be recommended as the site for the new school, providing it meets spelled out criteria.

The board has said of the three schools, Arcadia meets the space criteria.

The education department said last week the minister has received the board’s letter.

“Minister (Karen) Casey has received the letter from board chair Ms. Donna Tidd and had an opportunity to discuss the board's request with Ms. Tidd,” said department spokesperson Michelle Lucas. “Minister Casey indicated that she required more ‎information before she could consider an exemption.”

The options for exemptions to parts of the site selection process are included in recently revised Education Act regulations. The regulations say if boards are unable to recommend three sites they can recommend fewer sites providing they submit reasons why.

In this case it is not that the board is unable to submit three sites, rather it is seeking an exemption based on a potential preferred site.

If the minister does not grant an exemption the site selection process will proceed.

Meanwhile, parent Janessa Blauvelt still wants to see Arcadia School saved from the chopping block. She would like to see people, in large numbers, remain vocal in voicing their opposition to the school closure, just as they did when the school was under review and when controversial school catchment boundaries were put to the public last fall. She admits, though, the numbers and voices have dwindled. She thinks it’s because people feel defeated, which she says is the wrong approach.

Baulvelt reminds people that the board’s decision is far from complete since the question of what schools Arcadia School students will attend in the future is still uncertain and could result in short distances or long distances for students to attend classes.

 

 Here are sections of the Education Act pertaining to school site selection that the department forwarded to our newsroom:

(5A) If a new public school building is replacing one or more existing public school buildings, a school board’s recommendation under subsection (5) must include:

(a)    a recommendation for at least one of the sites of the existing public school buildings being replaced; or

(b)    written reasons why it is unable to recommend one of the sites of the existing public school buildings.

Subsection 7(5A) added: O.I.C. 2014-53, N.S. Reg. 31/2014.

 

(5B) On receiving a school board’s recommendations for sites for a new public school building, the Minister may:

(a) if one of the sites of the existing public school buildings being replaced is included in accordance with clause (5A)(a),

–  (i)     accept the 3 sites recommended, or

– (ii)    if fewer than 3 sites are recommended,  (A)   accept the reasons provided by the school board under clause (5)(b) for not recommending 3 sites, and accept the sites recommended, or  (B)   reject the reasons provided by the school board under clause (5)(b) for not recommending 3 sites, and request that the school board provide the required 3 sites under clause (5)(a);

 

 

(b)  if one of the sites of the existing public school buildings being replaced is not included in accordance with clause (5A)(b),

– (i)     accept the reasons provided by the school board under clause (5A)(b) for not including one of the sites, and either: A)   accept the 3 sites recommended,

or (B)   if fewer than 3 sites are recommended,

–  (I)     accept the reasons provided by the school board under clause (5)(b) for not recommending 3 sites, and accept the sites recommended, or 

– (II)   reject the reasons provided by the school board under clause (5)(b) for not recommending 3 sites, and request that the school board provide the required 3 sites under clause (5)(a), or

(ii)    reject the reasons provided by the school board under clause (5A)(b) for not including one of the sites, and request that the school board include one of the sites of the existing public school buildings being replaced in its recommendations under subsection (5).

Subsection 7(5B) added: O.I.C. 2014-53, N.S. Reg. 31/2014.

 

 (5C) The Minister shall refer the recommended sites for a new public school building accepted under subsection (5B) to the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal and that department shall evaluate the sites and recommend the most appropriate site to the Minister.

Subsection 7(5C) added: O.I.C. 2014-53, N.S. Reg. 31/2014.

 

 (5D) If the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal does not recommend any of the sites for a new public school building after its evaluation under subsection (5C), the Minister shall select the site for the building on the advice of the Department of Transportation Infrastructure Renewal and in consultation with the school board.

Subsection 7(5D) added: O.I.C. 2014-53, N.S. Reg. 31/2014.

 

 (6)    If the Minister considers it advisable to have a school constructed by a private sector developer, the school board, in consultation with the Minister, shall, upon receipt from the Minister of approval in principle of a capital project involving the acquisition of land, recommend three proposed sites for the project; the private sector developer will inspect the sites and, with the agreement of the school board, recommend the most appropriate site to the Minister and the Minister shall decide whether to accept the recommendation.

Subsection 7(6) amended: O.I.C. 2014-53, N.S. Reg. 31/2014.

 

(7)     If the Minister accepts the recommendation from the private sector developer pursuant to subsection (6), the Minister shall select the recommended site.

 

(8)     If the Minister does not accept the recommendation from the private sector developer pursuant to subsection (6), and if the Minister still considers it advisable to have a school constructed by a private sector developer, the procedure respecting site recommendation and the following steps pursuant to subsection (6) shall apply.

 

 

Organizations: Arcadia School, Tri-County Regional School Board, Yarmouth Junior High School Central School Plymouth School

Geographic location: Parade Street, Yarmouth, Plymouth

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