By Tina Comeau
As parents sort through school supply lists for the upcoming school year, the school board’s director of operations is hoping to see another school list presented to board members in October.
But this will depend on the process that is still unfolding, says Steve Stoddart, the director of operations for Tri-County Regional School Board.
The process is the selection of three potential sites to house a new elementary school. Students and staff from Central and South Centennial schools will be housed in this new school, along with an as-of-yet undetermined number of students and staff from Arcadia Consolidated School. All three schools are slated for eventual closure.
A site selection committee has met twice – once in June, once in July – and the next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 21.
Stoddart says the committee is analyzing a number of potential properties, although at this stage he won’t say which ones. Due to potential issues such as land acquisition, etc., the discussion of the sites during the committee stage is confidential.
As for the criteria the committee is looking at, Stoddart says, “We look for size, we look for infrastructure, sewer, water, those sorts of things. And we have to make comparisons. If we locate in one area, is there going to be more costs for busing compared to another area.”
Stoddart is assessing a number of properties that have been discussed at the committee level and a report will be brought to the next meeting.
The site selection committee has four representatives from each affected school sitting on it, along with representatives from the town and municipality of Yarmouth and the departments of education and transportation and infrastructure renewal. While there is board staff on the committee, there are no elected board members.
Eventually a list of three properties will be forwarded to the province from the school board.
“I hope to have a list to bring to the school board at its October meeting,” Stoddart says. “But that depends on how it goes, what we run into with the properties.”
After the properties are reviewed and assessed by government departments, the education minister will ultimately make the decision of where the school will be located.
The Department of Education has indicated the cash flow for the project will begin in the 2015-16 fiscal year. From there cash will continue to flow into the project in the years 2016-17 and 2017-18. The province says $9,950,000 has been approved for the school.
When there are multiple schools closing to make way for a new school, the site selection process states that at least one of those existing school sites must be submitted as a potential site providing, it meets the criteria.
A few months ago the school board had requested an exemption to the site selection process, putting forward the former Yarmouth Junior High site with its existing gymnasium as a preferred site. But that request quickly went nowhere as the board misunderstood the exemption option. It was pointed out by the education minister that an exemption can only be sought if a school board is unable to submit three potential sites.
Of course this isn’t the case here.