By Tina Comeau
When it comes to the future of South Centennial School, the first choice for those who attended a Thursday, Jan. 10, public meeting is to see the school remain open with renovations.
The second choice is to move students into a new school with Central School students in a location that preferably lies in the middle of where both schools are now located. Unless, of course, the school board wanted to build a new school where South Centennial is now, although those at the meeting don’t see that happening.
As for the option of retrofitting the old Yarmouth high school building on Parade Street into an elementary school, this was given a decisive thumbs down.
Last Thursday’s meeting was part of the school review process that is underway by the Tri-County Regional School Board, which in a couple of months will decide if South Centennial, Arcadia and Central Schools remain open or close. If students are moved into a new or retrofitted school that would only be years down the road.
At the meeting people questioned if bussing would be provided to a new elementary school since, depending on location, it could involve a long trek for young students.
Concern was also raised about larger class sizes if you amalgamate the student populations of two schools. And some questioned how much savings there would be in closing the school, if savings are offset by other expenses.
And then there is the concern of losing a sense of community should the school close.
“If you take the school out of the community what's left here, a store?” said parent Rozalind Purdy. “Having this school is good for the children, it’s good for the community. There’s not much down here. If you take out the school, 10 or 15 years down the road south end is going to be pretty much wiped out of Yarmouth. . . It’s a good idea to keep the school in this community.”
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Parent Lois Smith expressed concern over the impact that closing the school could have on special needs students who may have difficulty adjusting to a new school environment or larger class sizes.
Rather than spending money on one new school, people said, why not divide the money in half between South Centennial and Central?
South Centennial School was built in 1967. The overall condition of the school is good, according to a school board impact assessment report, although in coming years it would require a lot of costly renovations if it remains open. The school also has no proper gymnasium. While enrolment declined from 179 students in 2006 to 116 in 2011, the enrolment over the next few years is projected to be stable.
During the public meeting it was pointed out that newer isn’t always better when it comes to schools. Many pointed to the issues and problems that have been experienced at the new high school on Forest Street.
People also questioned what would happen to the John Douglas Kindergarten, which has been housed in the school for 30 years, and also what would happen to a tutoring program offered at the school for the public.
And what will happen to the building itself if it becomes vacant, many wonder.
“We already have enough vacant buildings in Yarmouth,” said Purdy. “We don’t need any more.”
The school’s study committee must file a response to the school board’s impact assessment report by Feb. 1. A public hearing will be held at the school at 6:30 p.m. on March 4 where people can make presentations to the school board.
The board is holding a meeting on March 24 where it will decide the fate of the schools.