DIGBY – The first public meeting for the review of the Digby County schools was well attended and calm.
About 125 people, 16 of them children, came out for the consultation meeting at the Digby Elementary School Jan. 27 to discuss the possible closure of Barton and Digby Neck Consolidated.
This first meeting was intended to explain the process and receive feedback from the public.
Parents expressed two main sorts of concerns – some said that the small school size and lots of staff attention helped their children learn and they were not confident that a larger school like Digby Elementary would meet their children’s needs.
On paper: Barton and Digby Neck schools have extra space according to provincial formula
Talk amongst yourselves: Parents wonder why school board members not at consultation meeting]
And others expressed various concerns about the bus ride.
Erica Phillips, whose children attend Barton, said she wasn’t necessarily concerned if they closed the school in her community.
“My concern is how is Digby Elementary going to accept this large influx of students,” she said. “As long as they’re prepared and my children’s education doesn’t suffer, that’s my main concern.”
But others like Scott Miller said he and his family moved to Little River so the children could go to a smaller school.
Anthony Knevel told the meeting that he originally wanted his kids to go to Digby Elementary School when he first moved here because he saw more opportunity for his children there.
“What I learned though is certain children do well in big schools and certain children do not,” he said. “My children do not do well in bigger schools.”
After a brief and unhappy stint at DES, Knevel says his children came alive at Barton.
“When kids are jumping out of bed in the morning and rushing to the bus and they come home from school excited about their day, then you know they’re doing something right,” he said.
Three young children spoke at the meeting to say that the small schools make them feel safer and happier.
Several parents made the point they didn’t want to speak badly of other schools and that the communities should all work together
Others expressed concern about the longer bus ride that elementary school children on Digby Neck would have to take if they were sent to Digby Elementary.
Rhonda Gidney, whose daughter now attends Digby Regional, wonders if both high school and elementary students come in on one bus, what the high school students will do for an hour while they wait for class.
“You go tell the high school students they are starting an hour earlier and see how happy you make them,” she said.
Sacha Miller said more parents from the other schools should attend these meetings, because if the school board does decide for example to re-align the bell times, it could affect every school in the area.
The second public meeting could be more interesting as the school options committee will present possible scenarios and options to the public for discussion.
For more information check out:
Tri-County Regional School Board Long Range Outlook, April 2015
Recommendation for the Review of Digby County Schools, Nov. 2015
Feb. 2010 - TCRSB Utilization Study by Dr. James Gunn finds neither Barton nor Digby Neck schools should be identified for review for closure
Feb. 2011 - TRCSB identifies Barton for review for closure
March 2012 - TCRSB decides to keep Barton open
Oct. 2014 - province issues new policy for school reviews
Nov. 2015 - TCRSB launches Digby school review to examine the impacts of closing Barton and Digby Neck schools
Jan. 2016 - school options committee (SOC) holds first public meeting
A summary of the public’s input to be recorded and approved at upcoming SOC meeting and a summary posted on TCRSB website.
TBA in Feb. 2016 - second public meeting to talk about draft scenarios and options and receive public input
TBA in March 2016 - SOC to present preferred scenario or scenarios at third public meeting and listen to feedback
April 5 - SOC presents report with recommendations to board
May 3 - senior board staff present technical report to board
TBA in May or early June - board makes final decision