SACKVILLE, N.B. – Outdoor learning spaces. Student engagement. Community connection. Hands-on learning. Inclusive education. Bright and open areas. Sustainable design.
These were just a few of the ideas brought to the table during a community visioning session on Sunday afternoon hosted by the Sackville Schools 2020 committee, as the group looks to get public input and feedback on developing a new 21st century model for education in Sackville.
Andrew Wilson, chair of Sackville 2020, a community group that was established two-and-a-half years ago out of a desire to be proactive rather than wait until the government decided the fate of the local schools, said the committee is excited about the vision that has been building. Sackville Schools 2020 has been working with community partners, such as the town of Sackville, Mount Allison University, local MLA Bernard LeBlanc, Tantramar Seniors’ College, Tantramar Family Resource Centre, and students, parents, and teachers in developing an integrated education model for Sackville.
“We feel like we’re getting closer and closer to something amazing,” said Wilson.
Sunday’s event included a number of featured speakers including Sackville Mayor John Higham, designer/architect Greg Hasiuk, educational design consultant/architect Boyd Algee, and assistant deputy minister of education Chris Treadwell.
Treadwell said he is in full support of Sackville Schools 2020 and believes it is leading the way in New Brunswick in rethinking its approach to education.
“The Sackville 2020 concept is cutting edge,” he said, “and hopefully will be a model for other communities in the province. It’s exactly the kind of education system we need to have if we’re going to the face the challenges associated with today’s technological advances.”
Treadwell said with the resources readily available in the Sackville area – including Mount Allison University, an engaged town council and businesspeople, and the Tantramar Seniors College, among others – he can’t imagine why the community wouldn’t leverage that opportunity to develop this vision.
“Wouldn’t you want that as part of your education system?” he asked.
Hasiuk and Algee both spoke about the new developments in the design of education facilities, including flexible learning environments, open spaces, natural lighting, connecting with nature and the community, sustainable features and more.
Hasiuk said when designing a new school, it’s important to look at all the components needed to create a “neighbourhood of learners.”
Algee agreed, saying it’s important to provide an environment that gives teachers and students the inspiration to move ahead.
Harry Doyle, chair of the District Education Council for Anglophone East, was also on hand for the meeting and said he was intrigued by the Sackville Schools 2020 model and encouraged the community to speak out about what they want in a new school.
“We want opinions . . . your community is what your school is all about,” he said, noting that the DEC will be considering its options in the near future about Sackville’s aging schools, particularly Marshview Middle School.
Because the speakers’ presentations ran longer than expected, there wasn’t a lot of time dedicated to community feedback at the meeting although several issues were raised – including ensuring an inclusive environment, putting more emphasis on outdoor learning spaces, placing more focus on citizenship in our students, and developing innovative food programs to tie in with the school curriculum.
Memramcook-Tantramar MLA Bernard LeBlanc said he is optimistic Sackville Schools 2020 has caught the eye of the provincial government and hopes the proposal will be taken on as a pilot project in the near future.