SACKVILLE, N.B. – They’ve done the research, they’ve put in the legwork, and they’ve brought forward a new and innovative vision for education in Sackville.
Now they need the community’s support to make it a reality.
Sackville Schools 2020, a group of community members who came together more than three years ago to brainstorm ways in which schooling in Sackville could become better, presented their proposed concept during a recent community forum.
"We've looked at schools in many different parts of Canada and beyond and we've put together a model that we think will work well for Sackville – a community learning campus," said committee member Laura Reinsborough.
The campus model the committee is proposing would see students from kindergarten to Grade 12 sharing facilities and resources with one another as well as the wider community. The facilities could incorporate features such as community kitchens, health services, a community library, performance space, and shared athletic space. It would also bring in partners such as Mount Allison University, the town of Sackville, the Tantramar Seniors’ College, Tantramar Family Resource Centre and local businesses.
A specific configuration has yet to be determined and Reinsborough said that would be decided upon by the community.
“This is only a draft proposal. We want your ideas to make the proposal stronger,” she said.
Sackville Schools 2020 committee members have been working since 2015 to develop their concept. Through meetings with experts in the field and educational advisors, and through hosting workshops and community sessions with students, parents, teachers and citizens, Reinsborough said they’ve looked at, “Is this something that is viable, are there other models out there, what does Sackville need?”
“But none of that matters if this is something the community feels they can’t get behind.”
The proposal comes as the Anglophone East district education council (DEC) is in the process of conducting a sustainability study, looking at the future of Sackville’s three schools – Salem Elementary, Marshview Middle and Tantramar high schools.
As part of the process, the school district held the first of three public meetings earlier this month to provide information to parents, teachers and other concerned residents about the various scenarios the community might want to consider as the closure of Marshview Middle School looms. Marshview, at nearly 70 years old, is operating under capacity and requires costly repairs.
The District will consider four options:
• Maintain the status quo
• Close Marshview, reconfigure Salem to K-5, and Tantramar to Grade 6 to 12.
• Close Marshview, build a new K-5 and a new 6-12
• Consider combinations of items 2 and 3 or another option brought forward during the study.
Reinsborough said Sackville Schools 2020 believes now is the time to take advantage of the opportunity to think outside the box and bring forward an ‘option 4’ that allows the community to have a say in their school system.
“The opportunity exists to create the model we want to see here in Sackville,” she said. “We know that changes are coming to our schools, that an investment is coming from the department. So we’d like to take that and leverage it... to do something more.”
Rather than relying on government decisions on things such as the location, grade configuration, and amenities of the schools, Reinsborough said Sackville could develop a model that is “led, shaped and built by the community for the community.”
She said the committee will be making a presentation of their draft proposal to the DEC during the next public meeting Nov. 27 at 7 p.m. at Tantramar Regional High School. A final recommendation will be made by the district education council at a public meeting Dec. 4, at Lou MacNarin School in Dieppe.
Reinsborough hopes the community will consider voicing their support for the concept as well.
Fellow committee member Karen Sears also shared her enthusiasm for the project, pointing out the community-based model is not a new concept and there are other examples of how this has worked elsewhere in New Brunswick, such as Centre Communautaire Sainte-Anne in Fredericton and Carrefour Communautaire Beausoleil in Miramichi.
“This isn’t pie-in-the-sky stuff,” said Sears. “This is a real opportunity and it can happen.”
Reinsbourough explained if the proposal is given the green light, the next step would be to seek lease agreements with various partners, including the Department of Education, the town of Sackville, and the federal government. Then would come an extensive community consultation process for the design of the campus, followed by architectural drawings and blueprints.
“We believe this can happen in a reasonable time frame,” she said. “We could be breaking ground by 2020.”