By Jean McKenna
[Editor’s note: The following article is a shortened version of a longer report that the Community Campus Vision Association has put together. Jean McKenna is one of the founders of CCVA. The complete report is on the Cooperator’s website at CCVA Report December 2016. ]
The Community Campus Vision Association has been advocating for a new school that would combine and replace Eastern Shore District High and Gaetz Brook Junior High. Our advocacy had included the concept of a shared facility concept, a “community campus,” to include a recreation complex and a senior's residential care structure. However, it has become increasingly clear that it is futile to “fight on three hills,” and it has also become clear that these two schools desperately need replacement. Our current focus is therefore entirely on school replacement.
ESDH, which opened in 1965, now has the dubious honour of being the oldest high school in HRM, and one of the oldest high schools in the province. The school’s basic facilities fall far short of city schools. Even St. Pat's, and Queen Elizabeth which were demolished 10 years ago, and replaced by Citadel High had much better facilities.
On a list of current problems at ESDH, CCVA has been especially concerned about the presence of Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM 's). There have been several investigations over the years which have found ACM in such places as boiler room breaching insulation, pipe elbow parging cement, various floor tiles, drywall compound, ceiling panels, etc. A few areas have been cleaned up, but many continue to exist.
On another front, ESDH has been forced to rely on trucked-in water, three loads a day, since 1992, at an estimated cost today of $50,000 a year. Pollution of Petpeswick Inlet is a recurring problem. The school’s gym is far too small, and the school lacks a proper auditorium.
Getting ESDH on the Replacement List
The process for a school to be considered for replacement requires the School Board to place it on a wish list of non-prioritized capital construction projects that are then submitted to the province. Until 2016, ESDH had never been on the list, despite its many flaws.
But this spring, our school board representative Bridget Boutilier convinced the Halifax board to designate “possible new school” to replace ESDH on the capital funding request list for the next fiscal year. On May 1, 2016, CCVA presented a petition containing 1,276 signatures to the Nova Scotia legislature requesting immediate replacement for ESDH. CCVA members also had a brief discussion with Minister, Karen Casey, and a 20-minute meeting with Premier Stephen McNeil.
We’re now waiting for Minister Casey’s announcement of capital funding projects. ESDH needs to be on this list. We do not need yet more band-aids. Please call your MLA Kevin Murphy (902-424-5707), Premier McNeil (902-424-5707), and Minister of Education Casey (902-424-5168) and urge them to put ESDH on this year’s list.