By Richard Bell
MLA Kevin Murphy will be a critical player in the upcoming but still undefined site selection process for a new high school on the Eastern Shore. Back in 2014, Murphy proposed moving Eastern Shore District High, the skating rink, and the Birches Nursing Home from Musquodoboit Harbour to what he called a “campus” in the Eastern Shore Industrial Park in Chezzetcook. In an interview, Murphy reviewed the history of his “campus” proposal, and the potential for locating additional facilities and services at a new high school.
Cooperator: How did you come up with the “campus” concept?
Murphy: One of the first things we dealt with in my new role as MLA was a water and sewer issue at the industrial park in East Chezzetcook. Other MLAs had kicked the can about putting in a water and sewer plant there. But with only 8 or 9 businesses already there, the cost was going to be prohibitive. So David Hendsbee, the folks from NSBI [Nova Scotia Business Inc., the landlords], and the tenants started bantering about getting big water and sewer customers to make it more financially feasible. When we started to eliminate things, the ones that seemed to make more sense were the school and the rec facility, and lots of discussion around the Birches.
Cooperator: What’s your thinking now about looking at the new school as an opportunity to do more, along the lines of your “campus” proposal?
Murphy: I’m interesting in trying to get the biggest bang for our buck for the Eastern Shore. No one would argue that having a nice shiny rec center next to the school would be a bad thing. But we have to take one step at a time. It’s important that we focus on the school; it’s a big project for us right now. But the path forward should not exclude the possibility of other things going beside the school, whatever they might be.
Cooperator: Some people would like to see the new school include a junior high, replacing Gaetz Brook Junior High, like the consolidation that’s going on right now at Duncan MacMillan in Sheet Harbour. Do you think the province should combine Gaetz Brook with the new high school?
Murphy: One piece at a time. The old School Board had provided Minister Casey a letter asking for Gaetz Brook to be included in a new high school. There’s also a letter from the Gaetz Brook School Advisory Committee in support of that change. I’ve met with every single SAC on Eastern Shore, and there’s broad-based support for that. Our job as a community will be to get ourselves organized and provide feedback to decision makers as to whether we want to formally ask for Gaetz Brook to be included.
Cooperator: How do you see the possibility of adding other facilities as the site selection process, whatever it turns out to be, gets going?
Murphy: When we get into soliciting opinions and feedback, we can talk about what extras we want to have. Do we want a new recreation facility, similar to but bigger than the one at Porters Lake Elementary? Or an arts and culture facility like a small community theatre available to students for theatre productions? There’s not a proper baseball field on the Eastern Shore; we’ve got over 200 kids playing, but once the kids can hit the ball longer, they have to go into the city to play. ESDH has got a great boys high school rugby team; they need a proper pitch to continue developing their reputation as a great program. I just heard that the Eastern Shore Family Resource Center is looking for a new home. At the recent minor hockey AGM, most of the meeting was taken up with talk about frustrations with our facility. We all travel to other communities to play in newer facilities that have more to offer. It’s tough for a 50-year old ice plant to chuck out ice in September/October, or April/May. But the walls and the roof are sturdy; there’s lots of things you could do with that building. There are 500 kids playing soccer; they could play year-round there, and the rugby teams could practice indoors too.
Cooperator: Where do you think the new high school should go?
Murphy: It’s not for me to decide. I’m aware the government owns 100 acres at the industrial park in East Chezzetcook. There’s 50 acres or so behind the Railway Museum and the rink, and 80 acres at exit 19. There may be others. It’ll be really interested to see what becomes available.
Cooperator: One of the complaints about the existing high school site is that there isn’t enough water there. What do you know about the new wells there?
Murphy: There are three new wells at high school, connected to large holding tank. The combination of flow from each of the wells, and what’s on hand, there’s a sufficient supply of water there now.