Round one: Parents want little schools and little bus rides

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier jriley@digbycourier.ca
Published on January 29, 2016
digby school review

Published on 29 January 2016

<p>Lisa McCullough says Barton Elementary works for her daughter but a bigger school wouldn’t.</p>

Photos by Jonathan Riley

digby school review

Published on 29 January 2016

<p>John James holds up a note written an 8-year-old student and says “When a young person takes the time to write something like this and stands up and speaks out, well that says it all.”</p>

Photos by Jonathan Riley

digby school review

Published on 29 January 2016

<p>A young student spoke up for her school at the public consultation meeting Jan. 27 in Digby.</p>

Photos by Jonathan Riley

digby school review

Published on 29 January 2016

<p>Erica Phillips told the meeting she just hopes Digby Elementary is ready to accept the large influx of students.</p>

Photos by Jonathan Riley

digby school review

Published on 29 January 2016

<p>Rhonda Gidney wondered, if they don’t add an extra bus for Digby Neck, what the high school students would do after arriving in town an hour early for school.</p>

Photos by Jonathan Riley

digby school review

Published on 29 January 2016

<p>Julie Woodman told the audience that everyone in the room was well aware of the benefits of small schools but they were going to have to prove it to the decision makers.</p>

Photos by Jonathan Riley

digby school review

Published on 29 January 2016

<p>Beth White was chair of the SAC and a big defender of Barton Elementary during the last review of the school in 2012.</p>

Photos by Jonathan Riley

digby school review

Published on 29 January 2016

<p>Scott Millar moved his family to Little River intentionally so his children could attend a small school.</p>

Photos by Jonathan Riley

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.

[RELATED:

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.

jriley@digbycourier.ca

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

Timeline

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