Friday, September 4, 2015

Watch Out, Wallace! Your School Is Next!

Wallace Elementary School
Parents in Wallace should be very worried about the future of their school. They have a nice little school that has been expanded and maintained over the years but the enrollment has been dropping. That's usually a good sign that the Chignecto Central Regional School Board sees a chance to chop another rural school and bus kids to larger schools.

Wallace is in a particularly bad place because it is caught squarely between two political forces.

On the one side is the home riding of the Minister of Education and on the other is a School Board member who wants to keep his local schools open for his own kids.

There's a new Primary to Grade 12 school being built in Tatamagouche this year to replace the existing elementary and high schools. The main street near the Foodland has been torn up in the past two weeks to upgrade the sewer lines to accommodate the increased loads from the new school. I expect that construction on the school will begin soon.

This new school is an accomplishment of the Minister, Hon. Karen Casey, who is also the MLA for the area. Of course, Minister Casey wants to keep the school full to justify the capital expense, and as Wallace is only 15 minutes away it would be the easiest thing in the world to just bus the Wallace kids over to the new school. This would probably mean more teachers to be hired in Tatamagouche, which would mean more jobs and more residents for the community. All good things for a politician. And it wouldn't hurt that the Wallace School to be closed is in the riding of her political enemy Mr Jamie Baillie, who defeated her for the leadership of the provincial Progressive Conservative party and precipitated her crossing the floor to the Liberals. Minister Casey has already delighted in seeing one school closed in Mr Baillie's riding (Wentworth) and closing another would just be icing on the cake.

On the other side of the community is Mr Davies, a school board member who lives in Pugwash. His children attend the Pugwash schools. Those are aging schools with declining enrollments but there is a brand new super-sized school in Oxford which could handle the Pugwash kids. Mr Davies does not want to be the school board rep to preside over the closing of his community schools, so I am sure that he would be open to any deal to keep his schools intact at the expense of others. He has already snagged half of the Wentworth kids to bolster the Pugwash numbers; perhaps he and Minister Casey can strike a deal to split Wallace kids between the two communities.

One thing is clear: if the CCRSB superintendent and other senior staff decide that they want to close a school, then it will be done. No actual justification is needed as any reasons can simply be made up after the fact. And as Minister Casey had demonstrated, no one in government will rein them in.

If I had children is school in Wallace, I would be very worried.

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