ANTIGONISH: The status-quo is among the possibilities under consideration for each of the two committees carrying out school reviews for the Strait regional school board (SRSB) in Antigonish and Inverness counties.

The final week of January kicked off with a public meeting held by the School Options Committee (SOC) investigating the Dalbrae Academy feeder systemSchool Options Committee. This gathering at Port Hood’s Bayview Education Centre (BEC) saw the unveiling of two scenarios currently getting a once-over from the SOC serving three schools in central Inverness County – specifically, the continuation of the current school alignment for Mabou-based Dalbrae, BEC and Whycocomagh Education Centre (WEC), 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.

Bob MacEachern, the official facilitator for the School Options Committees (SOC) conducting school reviews for the feeder systems serving Dalbrae Academy and Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School, addressed an estimated crowd of 200 at Port Hood’s Bayview Education Centre on the evening of January 23. This meeting saw MacEachern present the two options currently being reviewed by the SOC with regards to the three schools serving central Inverness County.

According to SRSB director of operations Sherman England, who is sitting on both SOCs as a non-voting member, the Dalbrae feeder system SOC originally began with 11 options, whittling those scenarios down to five by early January before arriving at the two scenarios presented last week in Port Hood.

“They threw everything they could think of as possible scenarios that meet the mandate of the SOC and, at the same point in time, ensure that no stone is unturned and nothing is forgotten about,” England told The Reporter Thursday afternoon, hours before the latest public meeting of the SOC overlooking the Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School feeder system.

That meeting, held at Antigonish Education Centre (AEC) in the Town of Antigonish, presented four scenarios to be reviewed by a separate SOC over the coming weeks: the status-quo for the feeder system’s five schools; the closure of AEC, the retention of Dr. J.H. Gillis’ current high school format and the realignment of St. Andrew Junior School to join St. Andrew’s Consolidated School and H.M. MacDonald School as P-to-6 facilities; the closure of Dr. J.H. Gillis, with St. Andrew Junior School re-aligning as a Grades 7-to-12 school and the remaining buildings housing P-to-6 students; and the closure of H.M. MacDonald School, with that Maryvale building’s students then sent to schools within town boundaries.

(From the left:) The Strait regional school board’s superintendent of schools, Ford Rice, the board’s director of human resources, Sherman England, and the chair of the School Options Committee (SOC) examining the five schools in the Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School feeder system, Cst. Deepak Prasad, were all on hand Thursday evening at Antigonish Education Centre to answer questions regarding the four scenarios the Antigonish-area SOC is currently reviewing.

The final option drew one of the few complaints registered during Thursday’s meeting in Antigonish, as Karen Clifton, who has three children attending AEC, suggested that the closure of H.M. MacDonald School would place undue pressure on young students from Maryvale and the surrounding areas.

“If I had children who lived out at H.M., I wouldn’t want them to be bused to town,” Clifton suggested, adding that the closure of AEC is her preferred option, since the latter building is located immediately behind the proposed receiving site of St. Andrew Junior School.
“Children who would normally come here [to AEC] are not moving far.”

Both SOCs will each hold an additional public meeting to update their progress and gauge community feedback, with each committee slated to present its final recommendation to the SRSB before the end of March. The board is expected to vote on each of these official recommendations early in the spring, in accordance with Nova Scotia’s official School Review Policy.