Editor’s note: The following letter was written to members of the Strait regional school board.
My name is Mary Anne MacKeigan Cameron and I live in Troy, currently parenting two children, ages 8 and 10, who are valued students of Bayview Education Centre.
I appreciate your commitment to serving on the Strait regional school board. I was raised in Whycocomagh, where I continue to work, and married a man who grew up in Mabou. My entire life has evolved and revolves around the space occupied by Bayview Education Centre, Whycocomagh Education Centre and Dalbrae Academy, over which you have so much influence.
Please treat this with respect and common sense. Your focus is the school buildings. The people who live here have so much more at stake. Your responsibility to the board is merely one piece of my puzzle but a major piece of the puzzle.
We are visiting the usefulness of Bayview and Dalbrae today because the governments of the 1990s made decisions based on bookkeeping when school debt was recorded in public accounts for the first time. For more information, check out: https://oag-ns.ca/sites/default/files/publications/1997%20-%20Ch%2008%20-%20Public%20Private%20Partnerships%20for%20School%20Construction.pdf.
Money was not the issue. (Nova Scotia has never had money.) How it was reflected in the books was the reason. Simple. Not your fault. You and me, your families and neighbours, are responsible for it today, though. Make good decisions.
Infrastructure in any population, but especially rural communities, is centralized, people-centered space. Over time in rural communities, infrastructure becomes re-purposed to better suit the needs of the communities.
This is where you, as a board member, have a chance to make real improvements and serve your people well. Helping our communities improve utilization of these spaces will make better use of the buildings, providing essential services in our rural community. Maintaining these three schools will create positive economic and social environments, conducive to growth and stability. Nothing slows progress faster than doubt and insecurity and closing a school.
Since the 1960s, schools have been pawns, moving and closing to reflect industrial employment changes and consequential fluctuations in population.
We know our greatest industry in Cape Breton, and Nova Scotia, is tourism. Tourism needs people in order to survive and thrive.
Keep the schools open. All of them.
Yours in community spirit and with hope for the future.
Mary Anne MacKeigan Cameron