Parents lobby as board prepares for Dalbrae review motions

PORT HAWKESBURY: With the fate of three Inverness County schools slated to become clearer at an upcoming working committee meeting of the Strait regional school board (SRSB), a community group pushing for the status-quo made its pitch at the board’s latest regular meeting.

SRSB superintendent of schools Ford Rice confirmed that the board’s next working committee meeting – slated for Wednesday, May 17 at Port Hood’s Bayview Education Centre (BEC) – will see the board receive the final report and recommendation from the School Options Committee (SOC) currently reviewing BEC, Mabou-based Dalbrae Academy, and Whycocomagh Education Centre (WEC). The superintendent will also present a staff technical report regarding the three schools at the same meeting, and previously-approved presentations from members of the public are also permissible at this May 17 gathering.

The board will then have 30 days to make its final decision on the Dalbrae Academy feeder system, noted Rice, who also confirmed that the board will hold a private study session on the feeder system prior to the working committee meeting, which will be open to the public.

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“Depending on the board’s discussion, and depending on the motion or motions that come out of the board’s discussion and the results of that, we’ll determine [future meeting dates] at that point of time and make that specific then,” Rice told reporters following the board’s regular meeting on May 2.

“So by May 17, at the working committee [meeting] to be held at Bayview Education Centre, at that point of time, we’ll identify the exact dates we’ll be adhering to.”

Last week’s board meeting at Port Hawkesbury’s SAERC Auditorium began with a presentation by the co-chairs of the Save Bayview Dalbrae School Feeder System Advocacy Committee, Jason Calder and Bobby Morris. With the SOC reviewing the feeder system narrowing its options to the status-quo for BEC, WEC and Dalbrae at its third and final public forum last month, Calder and Morris stressed the need for the board to respect the level of achievement reached by students within the feeder system.

“The high school students really are performing quite well when compared to our own board’s average,” said Calder, citing recent provincial assessments of SRSB students.

“When we look at the elementary school level, we can see that the Grade 3 students are above average in terms of reading… As we progress through Grade 4 math and into Grade 6, we can see again that the scores are at – or above – average all the way through, and in Grade 8. Our concern is that, in some of those categories where we’re behind a little bit, that we’ll see those scores fall back even further [if any schools close].”

While board chair Francine Boudreau suggested that the board is “always open to these presentations,” African-Nova Scotian representative Joanne Reddick reiterated her previously-stated position that such lobbying efforts should also be directed to provincial government officials with regards to Nova Scotia’s school board funding formula.

“Sometimes I feel that people lobby this board harder than they lobby the people who have the money,” Reddick remarked. “We can only do so much.”