Pictou Academy is fighting to stay open, once again.
The announcement of a school review in Pictou including all three town schools means PA is now fighting for the fourth time in 200 years to remain open.
Monica Graham, author of Cradle of Knowledge: Pictou Academy 1816-2016, notes that the first fight began in 1918.
“It was just after the First World War and the Halifax Explosion so the area was facing an economic downturn at the time and Pictou Council said it was too expensive to continue Pictou Academy and that they would have to close it,” explains Graham.
The principal at the time made it well aware to council that the school was provincially mandated to educate up to Grade 11 and that it wouldn’t pay for them to close the school. They could legally close Grade 12 but that would only save one salary or $400, but would lose a $1,000 grant from the province.
This was just after the school’s centennial celebrations.
Then around 1966, the school was facing closure again, this time at the 150 year mark.
“Harvey Veniot ended up saving the school with legislation,” explains Graham.
In 1969, he introduced a resolution to the Nova Scotia legislature to maintain an institution – Pictou Academy. The motion passed, thwarting the threat of closing, moving or re-naming the school.
Again in 2000, the school’s future was up in the air with talks of building new ‘super schools’ affecting all high schools in Pictou County.
Pictou Academy was the only school to be saved and remain as a high school while the others were either reverted to elementary or middle schools or torn down to make North Nova Education Centre and Northumberland Regional High School accessible.
Graham’s book details, “Students cried in public meetings, while students, teachers, parents and other citizens marched on government offices and protested in the streets. They cited the legislation that had founded the Academy in 1816, arguing it was inviolate…”
Now Pictou Academy’s fate is unknown as a school review could lead to its closure or it’s reconfiguration as an elementary or middle school.
“I watched what happened in River John,” says Graham. “My thoughts are, if most people on the school board have it in their heads they want to close the school, it will happen regardless of a valid response.”
She says no matter what River John tried to do, the board was set on having the school closed there and won’t even consider a hub model for any of the schools in Pictou.
“I believe it was irrational.”