I am writing about Digby Neck Consolidated School and the closure of Nova Scotia’s rural schools in general.
Digby Neck Consolidated is a small school in Sandy Cove that services several isolated fishing villages. There are many reasons for keeping open the school on its own merits; be it a bus ride for five year olds that could be as long as three hours a day or the questionable argument of tight school board financing when you consider the loss of the small school supplement and extra busing.
The province is in a difficult financial situation with budgets under strain. Might I posit that the true elephant in the room is demographic change. Young people are moving and the general population is aging. The disease is not a budget under pressure but instead it’s a population whose demographics make economic growth and the preservation of services difficult. The symptom is economic constraint, the disease is our demographic outlook.
It is very difficult to cut one’s way to an improved demographic situation.
Decisions should be made while keeping in mind that, we, in rural Nova Scotia need young people to choose to live here. A rural community doomed to permanent decline through a perceived small savings by a local school board has a very expensive price tag to governments in the long term.
There is something of an economic boom going on in the area. From plans to open a fish hatchery, a large local investment in Sushi grade lobster, to the planned expansion of two local fish plants. The successful expansion into new markets for our fishing industry suggests things are finally looking good.
Economic growth is here and just when these companies need workers, the community has to face the loss of the local school. What young person would move to an area where their kids have to spend three hours a day on a school bus?
The loss of the school would contribute to a hollowing out of these fishing communities; dooming them to ever greater demographic decline as young people move elsewhere to live their lives. The communities themselves become ever older and smaller still requiring services but with less and less people paying taxes to supply those services.
This pattern is being played out across the province as our politicians are grappling with an ever-shrinking tax base. We must be careful in the decisions we make lest we cut those things that are necessary to reversing and coping with our demographic quandary.
Councillor for District Four, Municipality of the District of Digby