[Editor’s Note: This report comes from the Community Campus Vision Association. An article in the December 2016 issue of the Cooperator, "Let's Replace ESDH Now," included an excerpt from this CCVA report. All emphases are in the original report.]
As most readers know, the Community Campus Vision Association has been advocating for a new High School to 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.
This article is an effort to share with you the issues and actions over the years
1965 – ESDH opens:
ESDH was constructed along the lines of what was then considered acceptable, and what no longer is not acceptable, in terms of the physical plant, and its ability to meet modern educational standards. The gymnasium was undersized, with no room for any sort of spectator seating. It had no real auditorium. It had no open common areas; the students would gather in the stairwells. It did not begin to compare with the facilities in the city schools, such as Prince Andrew, Dartmouth High, St. Pat's, and Queen Elizabeth. None of this has changed.
1992 – Water problems
In 1992, the school began to rely on trucked in water, 3 loads per day. This was partly in response to a significant oil spill, from underground storage tank and other possible sources. It was also in response to an inadequate water supply, which has not been rectified. Current annual cost for water is $50,000.
September 1998 – Engineering report on Asbestos Containing Materials, ESDH
In 1998, an asbestos investigation was undertaken at ESDH. 41 samples were taken from various areas within the school. Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM's) were found in boiler room breaching insulation, pipe elbow parging cement, various floor tiles, drywall compound, ceiling panels, and a fume hood. In addition to the sampled areas, the report noted the possibility of other ACM's in the building, areas could not be sampled without some dismantling. The report noted, “As the presence of asbestos is suspected, these areas will require additional sampling...prior to building demolition or renovation. Immediate remedial action was required for 9 sampled areas, and all friable asbestos should be removed before significant disturbance by maintenance, renovation, etc. A further assessment was done in 2015, apparently in conjunction with renovations to the lobby area. The ACM's in the renovated areas was contained.
In the early 70's, Gordon Bell High School was built in Cole Harbour. When Cole Harbour High School was built, Gordon Bell reverted to the HRM, and was used by various community groups, etc. However, in May 2013, Eagle Project Management prepared a report for HRM on future use of Gordon Bell Annex; asbestos findings were very similar to ESDH. Eagle noted: “EPM cautions against the use of this facility for public use considering the known regulated hazardous materials located within the property. Airborne asbestos for example has been linked to carcinogens and depending on the level of activity within the building, the known asbestos in floor tiles and ceiling tiles could become airborne and be considered a health hazard.
Asbestos was not the only issue; Eagle went on to comment “Over the years, technology, construction and design standards have made considerable strides in energy management, construction technology and products, energy efficient operations, environmentally 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.”
Should not the same reasoning apply to ESDH, almost 10 years older than Gordon Bell? And Gordon Bell had water. Yet Gordon Bell has now been demolished, and a $4,000,000 all-weather soccer field has been constructed on the site.
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 was never on the list, despite its many flaws. In 2014 – 2014, the Minister of Education, Karen Casey, requested that all school boards in the province generate a “Long Range Outlook” for the schools within their jurisdiction. In April 2015 the “Long Range Outlook” prepared for HRSB addressed ESDH, and made no suggestion that there was any need for replacement. The report completely failed to address the reality of ESDH:
-projected enrollment decline to 300 by 2022; fails to recognize 600+ homes in Porter's Lake (Seven Lakes); 200 in Nature Ridge; 40+ in Deerfoot Ridge Chezzetcook, ad hoc individual projects throughout the area (and now another 40+ in Musquodoboit Harbour), as well as designation of PL and MH as “growth areas
⁃failed to mention trucked in water at $50,000 per annum
⁃failed to mention pollution of Petpeswick Inlet
⁃ failed to mention 1998 asbestos study
⁃ Only Citadel group of schools recommended for capital replacement funding
⁃ ESDH recommendation is “optimize use”
⁃ Only imaging of any school is satellite overhead
⁃ No consultation with administration, teachers, or students; after the fact meeting with SAC's (no change), and survey on HRSB website (14 responses throughout HRSB)
In response, in the summer of 2015, Minister Casey announced $1,500,000 for “renovations” to ESDH; renovations included:
-new gym floor laid in the tiny gymnasium;
-portion of parking area re-done; student parking drastically reduced;
-outdoor basketball court damaged and reduced to one hoop;
-wire fence erected around dumpsters adjacent to the front entrance;
-wall torn down to include former VP's office in expanded but still inadequate entry area; -corridor wall removed from cafeteria
It is not at all clear that even the sum allocated was applied to ESDH; school board staff advised us that sometimes it is necessary to move funds from one envelope to another depending on Board demands elsewhere.
In August and September, asbestos clearance certificates (air quality) were issued for 2 areas: front office (now off main entrance), and storage area behind stage, which were the subject of the renovations.
In March 30, 2016, at the request of Minister Casey, HRSB provided an alphabetized list to province of capital funding requests for next fiscal year; ESDH was originally slated only for more “renovations”, but our representative Bridget Boutlier managed to convince her HRSB fellow members to amend the list, ESDH is amended to include “possible new school” for ESDH
On May 1, 2016 a petition containing 1276 signatures was presented to NS legislature; requesting immediate replacement for ESDH. We had a brief discussion with Minister, Karen Casey, who assured that she would visit the school soon; as well, we had a 20-minute meeting with Premier Stephen McNeil.
On May 4,2016 our concerns were expressed in correspondence to Minister Casey; asking her to visit CP Allen, Lockview, Halifax West, Citadel, and then ESDH to see for herself the glaring inequity. She is advised we are working on the school project, not a campus concept
On May 30, 2016 the province announced $50,000 for a “water quality study”, (but only items exceeding $150,000 are eligible for capital funding from the province; it is difficult to understand how the province would be involved in a $50,000 project. The deputy minister confirmed in an email that the funding is for “preparation for water study”
In July 2016, $490,000 contract was awarded for “ventilation upgrades” to ESDH; these may be underway. Ventilation issues had been noted in a 2006 report.
Since 2000, (now a soccer field), some 7 new high schools have been built in HRM. Two more are underway, including Eastern Passage High School, which will effectively gut the student population of two beautiful facilities, Auburn Drive and Cole Harbour High. ESDH now has the dubious honour of being the oldest high school in HRM, and there aren't many older in the province. Yet HRSB appears to be attempting to claw certain areas once again, to the top of the list. Specifically, new school (non high school) construction on the peninsula, and a new school to serve the allegedly growing population of the CP Allen High (built in 2013, at 75% capacity, and the additional space need could easily be accommodated by reassignment of school population among JL Ilsley (50% occupancy), Halifax West, and CP, all within approximately a 20 km range).
Next month, the Minister of Education will announce capital funding projects for the next fiscal year; our school needs to be there, and even if it is, the process could easily take up to three years or more to completion.
Please support the cause; contact your MLA Kevin Murphy, the Premier, and the Minister of education.