RIVER JOHN – The school in River John deserves a chance to show it is a vital part of the community and a strong centre of learning, Coun. Robert Parker said.
Parker, previously chaired the Chignecto-Central School Board before being elected to County Council in 2008, cited three keys to keeping River John Consolidated School open.
“River John school is a ways away from the centre of Pictou County, but it’s been able to hold its own when schools in many rural areas haven’t,” he said.
“If education was about getting good scores, we could make an argument to keep it open, and younger people are better closer to home. But if this school closes a few others won’t be very far behind.”
Council agreed to conduct its regular June meeting at the River John School after a request by Warden Ronald Baillie in support of a Save Our School committee that has been formed while the school undergoes a review. It was among schools considered for a review after the region’s schools were evaluated last year.
Parker said more uses for the school need to be found to ensure it remains open.
During his remarks, school principal Chris Shipley said it is already well utilized, relatively cheap to operate, offers an ideal learning environment and has the potential for more activity within its walls.
Despite just 57 students enrolled at the school this year, 75 students are expected to register at the school next September, he said.
“We’re nowhere near the top in terms of our cost of operations,” he said.
“We have day care twice a week and we’re maxed out. We have 100 per cent of our middle school students on a sports team, and I don’t know of any school that can say that. We’re going to score much better next year. We’ll know very early where the school review process is going. I’m very optimistic.”
Community college outreach programs lasting two years are also being considered for the school.
Baillie and his colleagues were led on a school tour by four students. He noted the gym is utilized almost every night of the week for sport and recreation activities.
“We hear about activities more and more,” he said.
Coun. Andy Thompson said the tour helped reinforce the advantages he sees in smaller schools.
“Everyone has a chance in a small school,” he said.
“We’re so consumed with trying to be the best, but not everyone’s idea of the best is the same.”