The committee reviewing the future of three Inverness County schools for the Strait Regional School Board (SRSB) will get an extra 30 days to complete their work this spring.
Originally slated to wrap up their review of Mabou’s Dalbrae Academy, Port Hood’s Bayview Education Centre (BEC) and Whycocomagh Education Centre (WEC) by the end of March, the School Options Committee (SOC) investigating these buildings has received permission from the SRSB and provincial Education Minister Karen Casey to extend this process by the end of April.
According to documents provided at the board’s most recent monthly meeting, board chair Francine Boudreau sent Casey a request on February 15 to extend the review period allocated to the Dalbrae Academy feeder system’s SOC by 30 days. The minister granted the request in a letter sent to the board the following day.
“The school review policy is a provincial policy, and I think the minister, like the board, values the input from the public, and the extension allowed that to happen,” SRSB superintendent of schools Ford Rice told reporters following the March 1 board meeting in Port Hastings.
Asked for the reasons behind the Dalbrae SOC request, Rice recalled that school staff members who also served on the committee were unable to attend SOC meetings that took place during the work-to-rule job action carried out by the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) during portions of December, January and February.
“If memory serves me correctly, the SOC had not done some work during the work-to-rule, because the staff was unable to attend the SOC meetings, and in this case, the SOC felt that they needed the additional time to do it,” Rice explained.
At its last public meeting on January 23, the Dalbrae SOC confirmed that it had narrowed its scope to two possible scenarios involving the three schools in question, including the continuation of the current school alignment or the closure of BEC and subsequent transfer of that school’s Grade Primary to 8 students to Dalbrae, with WEC retaining its current P-to-8 status. A date and venue for the third and final SOC public forum was not established as of press time.
As a result of the extension, the board will make its final decision on the three central Inverness County schools in mid-to-late May, approximately one month after holding a similar vote on the five Antigonish-area schools found within the Dr. John High Gillis Regional High School feeder system.
In the meantime, the superintendent pointed out that the board has not made a final decision on the location of SRSB meetings that will see the presentation of the board’s recommendation for each feeder system undergoing a review this year. While Port Hawkesbury’s SAERC Auditorium served in this capacity a year ago as the board voted on the future of the SAERC feeder system, Rice noted that there is still an opportunity for meetings to be held in the areas affected by the current school reviews.
“There’s no requirement for that to happen in terms of the school review policy, but the board could choose to conduct a larger public meeting,” Rice pointed out.