By Tina Comeau
Three local elementary schools under review by the Tri-County Regional School Board will spend this month preparing their responses to the board’s impact assessment reports that were prepared for each school.
Central, South Centennial and Arcadia schools must pass in their responses to the board by Feb. 1.
The study committee at Arcadia Consolidated School says its response will be to ask the board to keep the school open. This sentiment was overwhelming expressed at a public meeting at the school in November.
For Arcadia the options laid out for its future include staying open; sending the majority of students to Plymouth School with a couple dozen going to a new or retrofitted elementary school; or, closing the school and sending all students to a new or retrofitted elementary school, possibly with the student populations of Central and South Centennial.
On Tuesday, Jan. 8, a meeting of a parent support group is being held at 6:30 p.m. at the school. This group will work in conjunction with the school advisory council (SAC) in the fight to keep the school open. The purpose of Tuesday’s meeting is to organize the approach moving forward.
Arcadia principal Burns Thompson says aside from participating in the parent support group there are other ways for people to voice their support and participate in the review process, which, he says, can include visiting the information on the school’s website, joining the Save Arcadia School Facebook page, and dropping off letters at the school.
“Our main focus is as a school it’s certainly a resource, but also . . . it’s used by the community and we appreciate the support of those who see it this way.”
And there may be other things planned that the community and parents will be made aware of, he says, to get people involved.
A public meeting concerning another of the schools under review may be held this week, this one at South Centennial School. While the school advisory council has been meeting on this issue on a regular basis, a public meeting has tentatively been set for 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 10. The school will send out information to parents to confirm if this will be the meeting date.
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Principal Nancy Walker says the school has yet to really hear from parents and the community on their views of whether the school should remain open, or if it should amalgamate with Central School in a newly constructed or renovated elementary school.
“They haven’t really said a whole lot. They really don’t want to lose the school, it’s a valuable asset to the community, it’s the heart of their community,” says Walker. “I don’t know how they are really going to react. I think they’d like to keep the school here.”
And while seeing South Centennial students in an updated facility may be great in terms of what an updated facility could offer, she adds people have questions on where such a school would be located. “The kids would have to walk quite a ways if they look at putting in (on Parade Street),” she says.
At Central Elementary School, principal Jared Purdy says no public meeting is planned for this month. The school held a public meeting in the fall to gather input and it followed this up with a questionnaire sent home to families.
“We got a number of responses back so we’re going to implement that into our report,” says Purdy, who adds at the public meeting people felt that the students need a new facility, whether it's a facelift of the current building or a new building.
Purdy says that isn’t to say there aren’t some people who don’t want to see the school closed, but for the most part people seem to feel the students need a school that comes equipped with things like a cafeteria and a gymnasium, things Central does not have.
While the schools must file their responses to the school board by Feb. 1, the board must publicly table these responses by Feb. 28. By March 24 the school board must hold a public meeting(s) pertaining to the reviews. The board must make its decision about the schools staying open or closing by March 31.