By Tina Comeau
Arcadia Consolidated School put out an SOS last week in the form of a Save Our School call to arms for an upcoming Feb. 20 public hearing planned as part of a review of three elementary schools that is underway.
Yet while Arcadia is the first of the three elementary schools to be having its public hearing – Central and South Centennial being the other two schools, whose hearings will be held in March – all three schools have filed their responses to impact assessment reports that had been prepared by the Tri-County Regional School Board. The school board formally received these responses at its Feb. 5 monthly meeting. You can click here to read the responses from the schools.
Arcadia is the only school that is urging the school board to go with no other option than to keep its school open.
South Centennial’s first option is for the school board to keep its school open. If the board decides against that then the option recommended by the school is to merge the South Centennial and Central populations in a new school built in Yarmouth’s south end.
“This overture would help alleviate many of the concerns of this committee and the community have about transportation and sense-of-community issues,” the South Centennial response report reads.
Only Central School lists a school closure as their preferred option. Given the age of the school and the lack of facilities, such as a gymnasium and a cafeteria, the recommendation is to close the school and build a new school housing Central and South Centennial students at the old Yarmouth Junior High location on Parade Street. A new school with a population of around 325 students, they say, would also alleviate the need for combined grade levels.
“This option provides our students with the modern facility they desperately lack, would help unite two neighbouring school communities, promote community rejuvenation and truly put students first,” reads the Central report. “Ultimately, this positive change will provide significant educational advantages that will finally bring our students up to the standards enjoyed at other elementary schools in our school board.”
As mentioned, Arcadia is not entertaining any option that involves the closure of its school – this includes options put to it to move the majority of its students to Plymouth School or to merge Arcadia, Central and South Centennial students into a newly constructed or retrofitted school in town.
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Like the other schools do in their reports, the Arcadia study committee – based on feedback from parents and the community – questions whether many of the costly maintenance items that the school board has identified are really needed. And in some cases, why weren’t these issues addressed years earlier when schools asked for them. Why have they been saved until now, or allowed to have built up?
Arcadia’s report also says it is difficult for it to entertain moving students in Plymouth School. Since that school is not under review, there is no data readily available on many of the questions Arcadia School has such as Plymouth’s condition and what it has in terms of indoor and outdoor space. The students from a closed Arcadia School would outnumber those already at Plymouth.
The Arcadia report concludes that it would appear that the gymnasium facility at Plymouth – compared to the lack of a proper gym at Arcadia School – is the only valid reason the school board has for suggesting a merger of these two schools. But it notes merging the student populations – or putting Arcadia students into a new school in town – would likely mean less access to gym space than what Arcadia has now if it had to be divided to accommodate the number of students.
Another major argument that Arcadia makes is the community use aspect of its school. The report points to 23 community uses by organizations or people and the report contains letters of support from many of these groups who call the school an ideal, centralized location for their events.
The school has also invested a lot of effort and money on revitalizing its playground and nature trail, which are also assets within the community. Many local businesses and community groups have provided their support, financially and otherwise, to these projects.
(Note to readers: In the coming weeks as the public hearings at the schools approach, the Vanguard will report more specifically on each of the school responses that have been filed with the school board. The other hearing dates are March 4 for South Centennial and March 20 for Central.)