Compared to past meetings, this one was a lot more specific in regards to the individual needs of the different schools in HRM.
The priority of the Halifax Regional School Board is student achievement. This means that all students must have the same possibilities. Schools need to be sized to deliver programs and provide needs to their community. The plan is to try and make the changes to each school and community as smooth as possible.
In regards to the community, we need to recognize the difference between the different communities. For example, urban and rural communities have different needs. We also need to enhance the opportunities for community centred schools, and encourage full support and recognition for all cultures and diversity.
The province needs to promote effective utilization of the facilities and recognize the distinct needs of the rural communities.
For the schools that have overcrowding issues HRSB needs to come up with a short-term solution to accommodate all the students. A new permanent school is a must for areas such as Bedford South.
The Deputy Minister was informed that the overcrowding is so serious for Bedford South that funding for a new school (either p-9 or 6-9) needs to be fast tracked now and considered and voted on separately from the other recommendations at the end of this consulting period in May.
Some schools like Fort Sackville need so much repair that they are in definite need of capital.
Others are in need of a program renewal, like specialty programs and lunchrooms. They need to meet the requirement of the current curriculum.
As things stand now the CP Allen family of schools (which includes Bedford schools) is running at a 102% capacity. But by the year 2018/2019, it is predicted that the capacity will have increased by 129%.
New schools are required throughout Bedford and overcrowding is an issue so we need short-term solutions.
Basinview Drive Community School is actually the only school that unfortunately has a dropping enrollment.
The Sunnyside schools, which include Waverley Road, Fort Sackville and Eaglewood Drive, are dealing with very poor building conditions, as is Bedford Junior High.
New capital funding is requested for a new central site for CP Allen High School. The plan would also be to make CP Allen a community focused school.
As said earlier, this meeting was very specific in what needs to be done with the Bedford schools, with a lot of concret points.
With regards to Basinview School, boundary changes are a possibility, as well as having it a P-9 school.
A new Bedford Junior High is a must, with either a new building on the existing site or a renovation to CP Allen, transforming the high school into the junior high.
But there is still no definite information on renovating CP Allen as a junior high of 600 or so students. This would depend on when the new high school is ready.
Bedford Junior High has recently been told to disconnect its computers in some of its classrooms because of electrical problems.
Margaret Gullage, a parent from Bedford South School, spoke very convincingly about the need for a large (in student numbers) junior high in order to provide good academics for students of all learning needs.
A junior high would allow for the hiring of specialized teachers (by subjects and student age) and the offering of drama, art, advanced classes, extra help sessions, and extra curricular activities at lunch and after school.
The research data is not absolute, but does support fewer transitions between schools and a P-8, 9-12 configuration as the optimal academic, social, etc. for children.
However, this is with a junior high enrollment of 300-400 students. Bedford South School has 230ish students in junior high. The problem with Bedford South is that the building size limits the junior high enrollment size.
As for the Sunnyside group of schools, one possible solution would be to have a P-6 or a P-9 on the Eaglewood site.
Two P-9 schools would hold approximately 625 students each.
For now, the idea of a six-pack has been mentioned. A six-pack is six portables stuck together, with hallways in between each class.
Six-packs have been proposed for Eaglewood Drive and Bedford South, where students would remain indoors while going from one class to the next.
The Nova Scotia government is presently scrambling to find six-packs very quickly, as there are none available in Nova Scotia.
New students are arriving in a very dramatic way into Bedford South School because of the growth and development in that area. This problem needs to be dealt with quickly.
In ten years it is predicted that there will be 1,800 students at Bedford South School, and this new development will grow for ten to 20 years.
One solution would be to transform the present school into a junior high school, plus have six new P-6 or five P-9 schools. This of course is a long-term solution because it would take ten or more years for them to be completed.
Presently there are 620 students enrolled at Bedford South School. By 2010/2011 the student population is expected to increase to 734. A six-pack would be necessary by then. A year later, the enrollment is predicted to be 881. Thus, two six-packs would be needed. Any by 2013/2014 a new school would definitely be required, with a predicted student population of 1,051.
If Eaglewood receives a six-pack this would allow the students from Fort Sackville to leave the site and go to Eaglewood.
The next and final meeting will reveal the final recommendations for the school board to consider. This meeting will take place on Thursday, May 14 at Halifax West High School at 7p.m.
For this and other information on past and future Imagine Our Schools meetings, visit: www.hrsb.ns.ca and click on Imagine Our schools.