Editor's Note: A shortened version of this letter from the Community Campus Vision Association's Jean McKenna ran in the January/February 2018 edition of the Cooperator.
A Letter has been sent to the HRSB as a result of their last Board Meeting:
Dear HRSB members:
I am the Chair of the Community Campus Vision Association. We are a group advocating for replacement of Eastern Shore District High School and Gaetz Brook Junior High, with a single Junior / Senior high. As you may be aware, our catchment area reaches from Lake Echo in the west to Ship Harbour in the East, some 56 km. as the seagull flies, considerably further in light of the numerous lakes, bays, and coves within the boundaries.
We have reviewed the audio minutes of your meeting of Nov. 22, 2017, and in particular, Mr. Wright's motion requesting a report on new school needs based on overcrowding, and to set the "top three highest priority schools for capital improvement due to facility conditions". Mr. Wright is apparently not satisfied with the list of schools for possible replacement sent to the provincial government in May 2017 (which included, finally, Eastern Shore District High). He now argues overcrowding should be the key factor.
Board Chair, Gin Yee, stepped down to speak to the issue; as he pointed out, that information is already contained in the "long range outlet . Supt. Leroux urged the Board to look at the long range outlook.
The basis of the population information in the LRO is based on backward looking data, not on the future. In particular, with regards to the ESDH catchment area, it is completely inaccurate concerning growth. As we have previously pointed out to the HRSB, and the Province, the Porter's Lake and Musquodoboit Harbour areas are increasingly attracting new residents; Seven Lakes is designed for some 600 new homes; Nature Ridge some 200, ( both of these developments well underway) and as well there are numerous other smaller subdivisions and individual homes springing up. The population is definitely not shrinking. Clearly, 800 new family homes will result in significant growth in sudent population.
As pointed out by Mr. Yee, and Bridget Boutilier, our area representative, there are many factors aside from population, must be considered in school replacement. We have pointed out the ESDH issues to the Board in the past; these include the presence of asbestos, poor ventilation, lack of sprinkler and fire suppression, undersized bleacherless, gymnasium and cafeteria, no auditorium, inadequate lighting, trucked in water, and a design which, in words which were used by Eagle Project Management to describe the former Gordon Bell High, " Over the years, technology, construction and design standards have made considerable strides in energy management, construction technology and products, energy efficient operations, environmentally friendly and considerate developments which greatly enhance the local and surrounding properties.Unfortunately this property has reached the normal operating design maturity age whereas the current design, operating systems, property development, shape, size and appearance are not consistent with modern facilities". (Gordon Bell was built in the 70's; ESDH was built in 1965, now the oldest high school in HRM). The flaws in Gordon Bell were very much like those at ESDH; non-compliance with current building code standards,fire separation walls compromised, modified non-compliant electrical systems, entrances, washrooms, and other common areas not in compliance with current accessibility standards, poor stair lighting, hazardous materials containment, potential underground fuel storage tank contamination, internal ramp not code compliant. (as per Eagle report).
At the time of the Eagle report, the facility was not being used as a school, and the report cautioned against further public use. The building has since been demolished.
HRSB continuously applies costly bandaids and cosmetics to ESDH; a new floor in the undersized gymnasium, a partial replacement of the ventilation, partial asbestos abatement, a new parking area, which is attractive, but in fact has eliminated many of the student parking spaces, resulting in students parking their vehicles on the public road - reportedly a concern to police, fire, and emergency services.
Most recently, HRSB had a "water study" undertaken, in an effort to identify an on site source of potable water. 3 new wells were drilled, showing a resulting volume that fell below the minimum recommended, even with the school population remaining stable. The report also noted that "...neither the current demand nor anticipated future demand support fire protection loading or sprinklers at the facility". Notwithstanding the results, as well as the cautionary language in the reports regarding costs associated with developing on-site water, it is our understanding that HRSB is in any event planning to connect the new wells to the building.
Our group has invited input from Dr. Don Trider, former principal at ESDH, former superintendent of schools for Halifax County School Board, and retired Superintendent of Schools for HRSB; he recently remarked to the Minister, "after a tour of the school ... 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".
Many students have told us that when they attend other high schools in HRM, and throughout the province, they are shocked, and hurt, by how far behind ESDH is. Teachers likewise are frustrated by the inadequacy of ESDH and Gaetz Brook. Many students take out of area transfers,to schools that can deliver better curricular and extra-curricular programs.
Yes, there are older schools in HRM, but they are not high schools.It is at the high school level where programs and the tools to deliver them,are more complex, where students are beginning serious preparation for post secondary experience. But ESDH students are being left with the impression that somehow they are second class citizens. The motto / promise of the HRSB is "providing a high quality education for every student every day". Mr. Wright, in his motion says that as a member of the HRSB, he has a "fiduciary duty. Yes he does; as does every member of the Board; that duty isto provide a "high quality education to every student every day". A fiduciary duty means a duty to provide the highest standard of care to the "beneficiary" of the duty; it is not to be confused with a "fiscal" duty. Yet however well intended Mr. Wright's motion may be, it in effect asks board members to revisit the previous list of school replacement recommendations with a new group based on population, once again leaving ESDH ignored.
Our students at Eastern Shore and Gaetz Brook, and the communites throughout, deserve the same quality facility as students in Citadel High, CP Allen, Millwood, Halifax West, Sir John A., Sackville High and all other high schools in the province. They deserve a safe, healthy,inviting modern, environment. We believe this is an opportunity to create a new "green" school, with , for example, sustainable energy sources such as wind power, solar power, and geothermal heating; an internal greenhouse; curriculum flexibility to incorporate the natural , non- urban resources of the Eastern Shore, such as agriculture, aquaculture, forestry, and eco-tourism.We urge all HRSB members to get behind the long overdue replacement of ESDH with a new, modern, green, junior senior high school.
Please do not once again push us to the back of the line.
On behalf of the Community Campus Vision Association.