Editor’s note: The Community Campus Vision Association has been lobbying for the province to replace the aging buildings of Eastern Shore District High and Gaetz Brook Junior High with a new school consolidating the two schools.
The following letter from CCVA Chair Jean McKenna describes CCVA’s September meeting with provincial officials to share CCVA’s investigations of the conditions of the two schools, and to push for a replacement as soon as possible.
In September 14, members of the Community Campus Vision Association (CCVA) and others met with Zach Churchill (the new Minister of Education), the Deputy Minister of Education, MLA and Speaker Kevin Murphy, and the Executive Assistant of Minister Keith Colwell. (Colwell was unable to attend, but has promised his full support in cabinet and the House.) We had requested this meeting primarily to bring the new minister up to speed on the issues surrounding Eastern Shore District High (ESDH) and Gaetz Brook Junior High.
The CCVA members were joined and supported by Dr. John Withrow (former principal of Gaetz Brook and ESDH, and a former supervisor with HRSB), and by Dr. Don Trider, (former principal of ESDH, and also former Superintendent of Schools for Halifax County School Board and HRSB). HRSB elected members Bridget Boutilier and Gin Yee also joined us in support.
We provided the government representatives with copies of documents in relation to facility analysis, ventilation, lighting, asbestos, etc., as well as photo books and flash drives demonstrating our schools’ conditions in comparison to other Nova Scotia schools.
Dr. Trider had had an opportunity to tour ESDH a day or two prior to the meeting. He told the Minister, in quoting from one of the HRSB's own documents: “In education we have just about reached the end of squeezing good out of an outdated system. The current system is too costly, too ineffective, and as any kid will tell you deadly boring."
He noted that after the tour, it was clear to him that the kind of teaching and programming our students need cannot occur in the boxes of 1965. Purely cosmetic changes, rooms for guidance and teen health, paved parking etc., do nothing to advance learning for all of our students. A peek in the library was very discouraging—“I think I may have put those bookshelves in when I was there in 76.”
Dr.Withrow and Dr. Trider were the only individuals at the meeting with a professional background in education.
We were all alarmed by the fact that a replacement school had been promised some months prior to the election, but was de-railed by the decision to replace JL Ilsley, instead, and that the money being spent by the Province on these ESDH changes ($5,000,000 – $7,000,000) was a signal that our schools were not going to be replaced, and were intended to squeeze another 10 years or so out of these outdated facilities. .
However, our MLA Kevin Murphy and Minister Churchill told us that these expenditures were for what they described as “deferred maintenance.”Mr. Murphy pointed out that even if a school were announced now, it would be 2-3 years before a possible opening. We were told that these expenditures were intended to maintain the facility until a new school could be provided.
We certainly hope that we can expect an announcement soon; as the Board members pointed out, our high school is the worst in HRM. As well, it is very close to being the oldest in the Province, and the few that are the same vintage are at least healthy, and blessed with full size high school gyms and proper auditoriums. Our communities need to attract and retain new, young families, but unless we are provided with a new, high standard facility, this will not happen. Not “might not,” WILL NOT.
Please take the time to contact your government representative urging action on a new school:
Minister of Education - firstname.lastname@example.org
MLA Kevin Murphy - email@example.com
MLA Keith Colwell - firstname.lastname@example.org
Premier Stephen McNeil - email@example.com
Chair, Community Campus Vision Association