© Jonathan Riley
Former Clare MLA Wayne Gaudet explains the school review process to 125 people at the first public meeting of the school options committee on Jan. 27.
DIGBY – The current school review in Digby County all comes down to the definition of unused space.
According to the provincial definition and formula, the utilization rate at Digby Neck Consolidated School is 41 per cent and at Barton Consolidated School the rate is 52 per cent.
Julie Knevel, whose children attend Barton, can’t figure out where all this unused space is.
“How have they identified this excess space?” she asked at the first public meeting for the review of Digby County schools on Jan. 27 “I’ve served toast in the gym, the resource room is the principal’s office. I can’t find any extra space there. They have an outdoor classroom and they use every single inch of that school.”
The provincial formula for determining capacity of a school is simply to multiply the number of classrooms by the maximum number of students allowed in a classroom – which for elementary students is 25.
The capacity of Barton is therefore 5 x 25 or 125 students. In 2014 they only had 65 students, so therefore were only using 52 per cent of the school.
Digby Neck has three classrooms for a capacity of 75 students. In 2014 they had 31 students, so therefore were only using 41 per cent of the school.
Talk amongst yourselves: Parents wonder why school board members not at consultation meeting
Round one: Parents want little schools and little bus rides]
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In a report entitled Recommendation to Initiate a Review of Digby County Schools presented last fall, senior staff at the board said excess capacity impacts their budget because the provincial funding formula results in 27 per cent of the space in the school board’s building being unfunded.
Staff pegged the cost of that excess space across the board at $2 million.
Staff haven’t said how much the unfunded space at DCNS or Barton Elementary School is costing the board.
They have said, based on staffing and operational costs, that closing Barton Consolidated School would save the board $211,960 or 0.3 per cent of their $72 million budget, and closing Digby Neck Consolidated School would save them $335,899 or 0.5 per cent of the total board budget.
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