The Light: New purpose for school

By September 24, 2015School Closures
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Scholarship Centre engages supporters of vacant River John school

More than 20 people gathered last Thursday for the latest effort to profile the potential of River John Consolidated School as a model for a hub community concept.

It was the first day of the ScholarShip Education Centre launched at the school and is designed to develop a new learning and community space and utilize the school based on the hub concept. The name draws on plans by the River John Support our School committee that included a program to salute the village’s shipbuilding heritage, while emphasizing a wide view of education and a school’s relevance in a rural community like River John. Those who attended were encouraged to share their views on courses and workshops they would like to see offered at the scholarship centre.

“I’m happy to see the people of all ages here,” said Cathe MacLean, one of the session’s organizers.

“There has to be a way to deliver education locally to the youngest and invest in a vibrant future for this rural community – one which stepped up and engaged, created and innovated, and developed an educationally compelling and viable solution.”

The gathering included people from elsewhere in Pictou, Colchester and Cumberland counties who share concerns for River John and other rural communities. The group ranged from seniors to pre-schoolers.

Nicole Church is among those who have admired the work by the SOS committee to fashion a Hub community model for the school that was lost when the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board voted to close the school at its last regular board meeting in June.

“I think it’s a really wonderful thing,” she said, regarding the centre. “I just want to be involved. I’m glad they’re standing up and trying to provide opportunities for the community.”

Rita Wilson, a retired school teacher, agreed when she was asked to co-ordinate the centre activities. She said she welcomed the chance to help but had opposing feelings about the poignancy of a building no longer serving as a school.

“It’s both hopeful and terribly sad,” she said. “This school should be filled with 70 kids who are being driven in five different directions. The hope is in the people who are here.”

Wilson said Nova Scotia’s precarious finances are no reason to reject the hub model and close the school.

“I know finances are tight, but (closing the school) is a choice,” she said. “I think (the Hub model) the committee created was amazing and they need a chance to run with it.”

Those attending began arriving at the school at 8 a.m. to register for the event that lasted until 12 noon.

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