By Tina Comeau
Grade 4 Arcadia Consolidated School student Paxton Grant and other students who attend the after school program have written letters to the school board explaining why they want their school remain open.
“I love this school so much,” writes Grant. “I don’t want it to close.”
At a public hearing this week more people will join the chorus of why they want the elementary school to stay open. Their audience will be members of the Tri-County Regional School Board who will decide the fate of the school in late March. The public hearing at the school begins at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 20. In case of inclement weather the back-up date is Feb. 28.
This is the first of three public hearings being held as part of a school review process that is underway. Hearings for South Centennial and Central schools will be held in March.
In a 68-page response it has filed with the school board, a study committee from Arcadia School – based on feedback from parents and the public – explain why they want the school should stay open. The school has a population this year of 194 students.
While the school has made arguments from an educational perspective, it is also stressing the overall importance the community. There are 23 groups or individuals or who use the school outside of school hours.
David Sollows was a course instructor last summer for 21 teachers who were involved in masters degree courses offered from St. Francis Xavier University.
“While one might think that there would be an abundance of spaces available in the town of Yarmouth when schools were vacant for the summer, this was not the case due to maintenance and cleaning schedules,” says Sollows. “We were most fortunate to be offered space at Arcadia School.”
For the past 12 years Patricia Quinn has rented space to offer music lessons.
“Arcadia School provides an accessible location for many students as far away as Barrington Passage through West Pubnico, Tusket, Wedgeport, Yarmouth and other surrounding areas,” she says. “I feel Arcadia School benefits the whole community of Yarmouth and surrounding area by providing space for activities outside the daily school curriculum.”
The Arcadia Women’s Institute is another group that uses the school on a regular basis.
“We use Arcadia School because it is easily accessible. Some of our members have mobility issues and one is in a wheelchair,” says Irene White. “When we meet at Arcadia School we use the kitchen and the cafeteria. There are no other available places in Arcadia that we would be able to use for our functions.”
Aside from offering a central location and classroom and gym space for events and meetings, some of the school’s other community assets include two playgrounds, a sports field and a revitalized nature trail.
Although a school review does not mean automatic closure for a school, closure is a potential outcome. Petitions seeking support to keep the school open have been circulated throughout the area and will be presented to the board at the hearing. Letters of support have also been sent directly to the school.
“Our job at this point is to try and convince as many community members to be at the hearing as possible and to let the board know that the community fully supports the school,” says principal Burns Thompson.