By Tina Comeau
On March 27 the Tri-County Regional School Board will decide the future of four schools that are under review.
At its Feb. 7 monthly board meeting, the board chose Tuesday, March 27 as the date for a special board meeting. At this meeting the board will look at each school individually and decide whether to keep them open or close them. As part of the school review process the board is required to make these decisions by no later than March 31.
The four schools under review are Yarmouth Junior High and three elementary schools in Digby County: Weymouth Consolidated School, Barton Consolidated School and Westport Village School.
The special board meeting will get underway at 6:15 p.m., but where it will be held is yet to be determined. Given the large number of people expected to attend the meeting, it was decided that the school board boardroom where its meetings are usually held will not be large enough.
At the special board meeting, board members will give their reasons for why they think the schools should close or stay open, prior to the votes.
The public will not have an opportunity to speak at the March 27 meeting, but people will have a chance to have their say during four public hearings – one to be held for each school.
The dates and locations of these public hearings are as follows. All meetings will begin at 6:30 p.m.:
•Tuesday, Feb. 28: Westport fire hall (Storm date is Feb. 29)
•Monday, March 5: Barton Consolidated School (Storm date is March 7)
•Thursday, March 8: Weymouth Consolidated School (Storm date is March 9)
•Wednesday, March 21: Yarmouth Junior High (Storm date is March 23)
Unlike when presentations are made at regular school board meetings, people will not be required to submit their presentations in writing in advance of the public hearings. But where possible, the board would ask that people have a written copy of their presentation that they can supply to the board at the hearings themselves.
In making their decisions, school board members will have a lot of information to sift through, including impact assessment reports that have been prepared by board staff for each school, the responses to the impact assessment reports that have been prepared by study committees at each of the schools, presentations made during the public hearings and also at school board meetings and other correspondence that has come through the board office.
If the board chooses to close any of the schools, that decision can only be implemented at the start of the September 2012-13 school year at the earliest. The decision won’t impact the remainder of this school year. Also, the school board has to implement the changes within a period of five years.
Yarmouth Junior High houses only Grade 9 students. It is on the school review list because the school would have to be officially closed to move Grade 9 students into a new Yarmouth high school that is under construction. The student population at the school is 263.
Weymouth Consolidated School has a student population of 248 students. Barton Consolidated School has a student population of 53 students. Westport is a P-3 school with a student population of three students.
The study committee responses sent to the school board by all four schools oppose the closure of the schools. The detailed and researched responses state that closing the schools would not be in the best interest of the students, the communities or even the school board.
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