Slide from SST showing features of consolidated junior/senior high. The main entry is at the top in gray. High school on left wing, junior high on right wing. Bright green rectangles are classrooms; dark blue rectangles on the senior and junior wings are labs. The large red rectangle in the center is the gym, with unisex changing room above. Orange is cafetorium. Next to gym, lower pink space is music room, opening to a low stage and the cafetorium. Above music is pink theatre room that can open into the gym.
By Richard Bell
Participants in the three meetings of the Eastern Shore Area School Steering Team (SST) have raised serious concerns about the adequacy of the proposed consolidated school to meet all the needs of the two schools the new school will be replacing, Eastern Shore District High in Musquodoboit Harbour, and Gaetz Brook Junior High in Gaetz Brook
The Terms of Reference (TOR) for this School Steering Team made it quite clear that this SST was toothless: “The SST is an advisory body, it does not have authority to approve project changes.” But the TOR also stated that the “SST acts as a key resource gather input and provide information to the school communities they represent to enable a public connection to the school project.” The committee includes officials from HRCE, Education, Public Works, school principals, teachers and students, Harvey Architecture, and Marco Construction. (No one from OPA was included in the first meeting; OPA was added in January 2022.)
The SST has met three times, on December 1, 2021, January 19, 2022, and February 23, 2022. The quotes in this article all come from the minutes of the first two meetings. The minutes of the February 23 meeting were still not available at press time on April 22, 2022.
At the December 1, 2021, SST meeting, Richard White, Educational Facility Planner working with Harvey Architects, warned the group that the new school might not have all the functionality of the two existing schools. He said, “A new school is being built for equity throughout, we are not always able to give you everything that you previously had.”
One Gym Instead of Two
The existing schools have two gyms which are used to capacity. The new school will have only one, a standard size gym, with a moveable wall to divide the space in two. ESDH Principal Jennifer Murray immediately expressed her concern about the impact of moving from two gyms down to one. And Gaetz Brook principal David Reed pointed out that new physical education requirements in the “Time to Learn” document meant that “a two spot Gym will not be sufficient. Gym in the classroom will not support the gross motor exercises.”
The gym has unisex changing rooms. According to Darrell MacDonald, Director of Education Facilities Project Services for DPW, “One of the major goals is to avoid the binary nature of changerooms. Often people raise the issue of team sports…do we need 4 sets of change rooms for team sports? This puts us on the edge of losing the benefits of universal access change rooms. If it comes to team sports, the teams can congregate in the Active Health Living or in the Cafeteria for a pregame huddle.”
The design does include an “Active Healthy Living” room next to the gym, that could be used for dance or yoga classes, taking some pressure off the gym.
Threat from Missing Ramps on the 107
From then-MLA Kevin Murphy’s first endorsement in 2014 of the Industrial Park site, people have expressed grave concerns about the absence of east on-and-off ramps on the 107 from East Chezzetcook Road, and the frequent near-accidents and accidents resulting from people making U-turns on the highway. At the December meeting, ESDH principal Murray said, “There are young drivers, there is a concern with the off ramp toward the eastern side. Young drivers are inexperienced and there is a safety concern. There has been a student, and a staff member, who were in terrible accidents.”
DPW’s Darrell MacDonald told Murray that making this interchange safer “would be a separate project altogether. It is not anticipated or budgeted in this project.” At the January 19, 2022, meeting, MacDonald reported that DPW Highways “would like to do an analysis/survey on the issue. A full Traffic Impact Analysis process is already in motion. It will be a couple of months to complete it.” But no official said anything about the availability of additional funding for a project that would cost upwards of $5 million.
Mixing of Junior and Senior High Students
Many people have expressed concerns about mixing junior high students (as young as 11) with senior high students (as old as 21). Although there are separate wings, Colin Dorgan, the lead designer for Harvey Architecture, told the January 19, 2022, SST meeting that despite efforts to separate them, “students will have interactions with one another in the central shared spaces, and when accessing specialty program areas that are located within each wing. There will be a lot of movement between the JH and the HS.”
Reliability of Enrollment Projections
There were many concerns about the reliability of HRCE’s enrollment projections, in light of the impact of the COVID pandemic and the subsequent radical changes in the housing market along the Eastern Shore. These enrollment projections drive all decisions under the “Design Requirements Manual,” a document that was largely unknown to most of the non-government members. At the January meeting, Kelly Hale, Vice Principal at OPA and Chair of the SAC at ESDH, pointed out that OPA’s catchment basin “seems to be the place that people from Ontario want to come. We have had 30 new students whose families have moved here from Ontario.”
There were several other concerns on the table, including the impact of noise and the need for quiet spaces for some students, the decision to go with a one-story building, the absence of an auditorium, the loss of the heavily used ESDH weight room, and the treatment of the wetlands surrounding the school site. You can find the minutes of the first two SST meetings at https://esd.hrce.ca/esd/school-advisory-council/new-school-steering-team-meeting-minutes-link.