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Sackville Schools 2020 not waiting on school district, province to move forward on new school

Members of Sackville Schools 2020 are proposing all three of Sackville’s schools, Salem Elementary, Marshview Middle School, pictured above and Tantramar Regional High School be replaced with a 21st Century model. SCOTT DOHERTY – SACKVILLE TRIBUNE-POST
Members of Sackville Schools 2020 are proposing all three of Sackville’s schools, Salem Elementary, Marshview Middle School, pictured above and Tantramar Regional High School be replaced with a 21st Century model. SCOTT DOHERTY – SACKVILLE TRIBUNE-POST

Group proposing to replace local elementary, middle and high schools with a new 21st century model

SACKVILLE, N.B. – Members of Sackville Schools 2020 werent at all surprised by the findings of a recently-released report on the condition of the schools in the Tantramar area. Aging infrastructure, millions of dollars required for maintenance, undersized classrooms, lack of accessibility. All of these concerns have been raised by Sackville Schools 2020 in the past – and now this report provides the group with more leverage as they make their case towards building a new 21st century vision for education in Sackville.

We knew we needed to do something but this just confirms it, said Andrew Wilson, chair of Sackville 2020, a community group that was established two-and-a-half years ago and has sparked the movement to re-imagine education in Sackville.

The report, an infrastructure review that was conducted last spring by Ernst & Young at the request of the school district, stemmed from an initial request made two years ago by the Sackville Schools 2020 group.

Wilson said they knew having an infrastructure review like this in hand would be important as they move forward with their plans – to develop a new approach towards education that would focus on innovative, integrated and community-based learning.

This is one of the things that had to happen . . . for us to get in front of the process, said Wilson of the review.

The infrastructure review was conducted on four schools – Tantramar Regional High School, Marshview Middle School, Salem Elementary School and Dorchester Consolidated School.

According to Gregg Ingersoll, superintendant for Anglophone East School District, in his executive summary of the report, the review was simply done as an information-gathering exercise so the District Education Council (DEC) can make better long-range planning decisions. (A review was also done on three schools in the Irishtown/Moncton area).

There will not be any immediate actions as a result of these studies, stated Ingersoll in the report introduction.

With declining enrolments in the Tantramar area, both Marshview and Tantramar have surplus space. And so one option recommended in the report is to reconfigure TRHS (the youngest of the two schools) to become a Grade 6-12 school. For this option, a $7 million upgrade would be required, which would include a multi-purpose gym addition.

Another option was the construction of a new Grade 6-12 school, costing an estimated $30 million.

The report also put the option on the table of a new K-12 school, which would be designed for about 1,100 students and would come with a pricetag of about $42 million. It was noted, however, in the report that this option is outside the recommended sizingfor a K-12 school in New Brunswick.

Ingersoll stated that just because the district had EY perform these studies does not mean they are automatically the first priority for the district in long-term planning.

He said that should the DEC decide to request that a new school be built to replace an aging school, that decision would take place in May during capital budgeting. And if the DEC wanted to move ahead with the option of closing two or more schools to build one school to replace them, the DEC would first have to complete a sustainability study on those schools.

All of this takes time and once a process like this begins and approval is granted at the provincial level, it would likely be three to six years before a new school is built, Ingersoll wrote in the report.

Sackville Schools 2020 has no intention, however, of waiting on the district or the province to move forward.

We don’t think Sackville needs to wait another three to six years for something to happen, said Michael Fox, a Sackville Schools 2020 member and a Mount Allison University professor.

Fox said the report provides Sackville Schools 2020 with the information they needed – which basically stated that the current infrastructure is sub-par and it is obvious that something needs to be done, particularly as it relates to Marshview Middle School. This report will serve as a launching pad towards their goal.

“We want to move forward now,” said Fox. “We’re looking for decisions now based on this information.”

Wilson agreed, saying Sackville Schools 2020 has no plans to leave it up to others to build a school the community isnt going to be happy with. He said government processes take too long and we dont have the luxury of time, pointing to the poor state of Marshview as an example.

He said the DEC has been extremely supportive of Sackville Schools 2020 but simply has too much on their agenda to get this done in a suitable time frame.

I think the vision that we’ve got doesn’t need to be one that sits on their list.

Wilson said the group that has come together through Sackville Schools 2020 is confident in moving this forward on their own and getting it done.

We’ve had so much positive affirmation . . . we’re confident this is going to happen.

For more information on Sackville Schools 2020's proposed vision, visit http://www.sackvilleschools2020.com/ or check out their site on Facebook

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