PICTOU – High school students will continue to attend school in Pictou.
There was wide-ranging reaction during a special meeting on Wednesday in Truro from the delegation of more than 100 local people who witnessed the decision by Chignecto-Central Regional School Board members who voted in favour of converting Pictou Elementary to a Primary to Grade 8 school and moving grades 9 to 12 students to Dr. Thomas McCulloch.
The board plans to make the necessary changes by the time classes resume for the 2017-18 school year in September.
“At the end of the day, we’ll keep the students in town,” said Luke Young, vice-chairman of the Pictou Academy Education Foundation. “We can’t move backward from tonight.”
Mayor Jim Ryan, who strongly supported the school options committee’s preferred choice of building a new P-12 school in Pictou, said he was disappointed with the decisions.
“(The school board members) failed once again to listen,” he said. “We have P-12 but they modified their arguments to achieve this outcome.”
The results of keeping Pictou Elementary and McCulloch schools means the board has agreed to officially close the building currently housing Pictou Academy at the end of July and declare it surplus to the board’s needs.
The board also agreed to rename the McCulloch site Pictou Academy to comply with provincial legislation.
There was consensus early in the discussion by board members for a P-12 student configuration in Pictou. However, the results were not what West Pictou board member Vivian Farrell favoured.
The board defeated her initial motion for Pictou Elementary to remain a P-5 school and Grades 6 to 12 students to attend McCulloch. She pointed to financial savings and figures showing that Pictou Elementary would be half full and McCulloch two-thirds full under her proposal.
What the board approved will leave Pictou Elementary at 84 per cent capacity and McCulloch barely one-quarter full.
It followed an argument led by board member Ron Marks that P-8 is the option recommended by the school board’s education committee and staff.
“The P-8 and 9-12 model would appear to be the model we want to use,” he said.
Emma Ruiz, a Grade 11 student at Pictou Academy, was downcast over the prospect of not completing her high school in the building that opened in 1939.
“I love that building so much,” she said. “I find it more inviting.”
Pictou Academy Education Foundation chairperson Noella Martin said keeping P-12 students in Pictou leaves more work to be done for foundation members and other stakeholders.
“We’re very happy P-12 students will attend school in Pictou,” she said. “The bad news is that I can’t put my feet up and relax. We’ll be watching to make sure the board delivers the best education for the students.”
Read more on this issue in the April 12 edition of The Advocate.
From left: Pictou Academy students Kellli MacDonald, Sophie Heighton and Myla Briand share a humourous moment before the special meeting on Wednesday. (Goodwin photo)