(From the left): Strait regional school board (SRSB) members Chelsea Burke, Rosalee Parker, Mary Jess MacDonald and Joanne Reddick listened as Lynne MacLennan, co-chair of the School Options Committee (SOC) examining the Dalbrae Academy feeder system, presented the committee’s final report at Port Hood’s Bayview Education Centre (BEC) on May 17.

PORT HOOD: For the second consecutive month, the Strait regional school board (SRSB) has determined that every school within one of its feeder systems should remain open.

Cheers and applause filled Port Hood’s Bayview Education Centre (BEC) during a special board meeting held on May 16, as board members voted unanimously in favour of two motions that will see the SRSB advise the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) of its desire to continue operating BEC and Mabou’s Dalbrae Academy beyond the 2021 expiry date for the P3 leases for these two schools.

As a result of these two motions and the lack of any action regarding the third school in the Dalbrae Academy feeder system, Whycocomagh Education Centre (WEC), the board will not make any changes to the feeder system in the current round of school reviews. This development came three weeks after the board voted to continue operating all five schools in the Antigonish-area Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School feeder system.

Prior to the special board meeting, the board’s working committee meeting saw the presentation of an SRSB staff technical report on the Dalbrae Academy feeder system by the board’s superintendent of schools, Ford Rice, as well as the final report and recommendation of the School Options Committee (SOC) reviewing the feeder system, which was delivered by SOC co-chair Lynne MacLennan.

In requesting the continued operation of Dalbrae, BEC and WEC in their current configuration, MacLennan suggested that this option has “unanimous support from the community” and also aired several concerns with the only other recommendation given extensive study by her committee. This scenario would have resulted in BEC’s closure and the reconfiguration of Dalbrae as a Grades Primary-to-12 school, with WEC retaining its present Grades Primary-to-8 status.

MacLennan noted that such a move would require the addition of 6,600 square feet to the current Dalbrae building, noting that even with such an expansion, students from the BEC and Dalbrae catchment areas would be “tightly” packed into the facility and not receive their current level of academic excellence, extra-curricular activity and student-teacher attention.

“We strongly believe that the current model is working, with great schools, great teachers and excellent administration, resulting in strong academic outcomes that we can all be proud of,” MacLennan declared.

“We heard time and time again from parents who told us that the schools we have in our feeder system were a large part of the reason that they chose to raise a family in this area. In fact, there are several members at our very own SOC table that shared a similar story.”

Central Inverness board member Jim Austen thanked the Dalbrae SOC for the “long journey” they took to reach this recommendation.

“A lot of them volunteered to do it, and I’m surprised that they’d volunteer to do it,” remarked Austen, who also thanked parents, community members, and fellow SRSB elected members and administration who oversaw school reviews in Inverness and Antigonish counties over the last five months.

“It was frustrating work that they were asked to do by the Minister of Education.”

Over the past two years of SRSB school reviews, only one of the 11 reviewed schools, Mulgrave Memorial Education Centre (MMEC), was singled out for closure, which is currently slated to occur in June 2018.