A year-long community dialogue on the future of Bridgetown and Lawrencetown schools has boiled down to stakeholders urging the status quo but at the same time suggesting the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board and the school community build partnerships and collaborate on preserving schools.
A year after the board asked communities, school advisory councils, and residents to devise strategies to keep schools viable in the face of rising costs and declining enrolments, a stakeholders group in Bridgetown presented a hefty document to the AVRSB by the April 1 deadline. “For everyone involved in this extensive undertaking, the very significant role that our schools play in the social, cultural, economic, and environmental well-being of the communities they serve rang loud and clear,” said Bridgetown Mayor Art Marshal in a preface letter to the submitted document. “At the end of the day, we believe very strongly that the current school configurations in Bridgetown and Lawrencetown must be preserved and steps be taken to bring these facilities back to the good condition that our children deserve.”
Marshall also said the province should play a significant role as partnerships and collaboration move forward “with this undertaking and look for ways to build and sustain vibrant healthy rural communities.”
In the document, titled Annapolis Believes in Community Schools, the Bridgetown Regional Elementary School’s SAC urged the board to work with stakeholders to determine a redesign of the facility, followed by a full engineering study. “We recognize the impact schools have on a community, and therefore believe our schools are not only necessary, but critical for the sustainability of our town’s future,” the SAC said.
The group suggested revamping BRES into a ‘green’ school could serve as a pilot project for the board by exploring ways to re-equip old buildings to be healthy, economical, and productive learning environments. “With the cooperation and spirit of working together the (AVRSB), the Town of Bridgetown, and the parents and citizens of our community can renovate and maintain the schools that already exist,” the SAC said.
The SAC at Bridgetown Regional High School provided numerous ideas on making the most of course offerings, increasing school revenues from outside sources, building an integrated approach to the use of the school building, and decreasing building operating costs.
The SAC suggested renovations and improvements that would reduce such things as heating costs, and suggested less expensive energy alternatives such as biomass replace oil-fired boilers. The group suggested other greening options that would reduce the schools carbon footprint while saving money.
The group also suggested the facility be community multi-use with each user contributing monetarily for the use of space while at the same time providing opportunities for students. “We are willing to develop the ideas we have proposed in this document, cooperatively with the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board so that we may all continue to provide the very best opportunities we can for our students,” the SAC said. “We believe that our rural community-based schools provide the best environment in which to educate our children as citizens, and we are committed to their future.”
The town said in its section of the document that its strategic plan, started in 2006, had maintained that Bridgetown’s schools were identified as the key to a sustainable future for the community, noting they play a critical role in the social, cultural, and economic development of the Bridgetown area.
Bridgetown said the existence of the schools is an economic driver and an attraction to young families to move to the area. The town is also involved in creating a sport school program that could potentially increase enrolment by as many as 50 students a year.
The town also questioned the Department of Education’s funding formula which is perceived as unfair to AVRSB schools because they don’t qualify under two components of the formula – enrollment supplement and class size supplement. In effect, said the town, Valley schools are forced to use core funding to sustain schools with declining enrollment.
School closures would lead to a series of negative impacts, the town said, including: ability to attract new residents and businesses; loss of population; closure of businesses; decline in property values and assessments; loss of tax revenue in both the town and county; reduced ability to provide services; reduced ability to maintain recreational facilities; reduced ability to attract staff for local institutions, businesses, and organizations; reduced ability to contribute to inter-municipal agreements such as transit, waste management, economic development; and tourism; and ultimately the loss of town status. “Current enrollment numbers and projections are of concern, but do not warrant closing a school or losing a school population,” the town said. “The Bridgetown Schools Stakeholder Group feels that the existing school buildings, with some investment, can continue to serve the community for many more years.”
Bridgetown stakeholders urge school status quo
Document filled with ideas for renovations, revenue, student opportunities
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