In an article dated Oct. 9th in the Kings Co Register Nancy Kelly reports on enrolment numbers for the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board. The news isn’t good, in spite of the “primary bump” (that is the increased enrolment expected from the change in birth date required for entering primary students). Valley Schools superintendent Dray thought the AVRSB schools could expect a 20% increase in numbers from this move but they got only 16% more.
Overall, 180 Primary students born between the October to December time frame entered the board’s 13 elementary schools, four per cent less than the board had anticipated
This was not enough to offset the decline in numbers overall which was 226 fewer students than last year. More than half of the 19 schools in Kings Co. either registered a decline or no change; only 8 had increases. What does this mean for Wolfville school?
The issue of our school’s survival came up at the recent municipal candidates forum. Several candidates and residents in the hall worried about the results of the school review in the context of a discussion of housing affordability and attracting more young families to Wolfville. Mayor Bob Stead assured the attendees that he had been told that Woflville school was safe, guaranteed not to close. Unfortunately this was at the very end of the evening when there was no time for anyone to question him about this statement. They might have wanted to ask: Who gave this guarantee? How trustworthy are they given that there is a process involved in the review? Are these assurances in writing? And why is Wolfville safe and other schools around such as Hantsport school considered at risk?
Perhaps Mr. Stead is referring to the comments Dr. Dray made at the Council meeting Sept 2nd which was before the meeting at the school on Sept 8th.
Dr. Dray suggested that the Wolfville School has a long future because of the type of
school it is and what it can offer to the community and what the community wants from the school. Ms. Zwicker noted that over the next 5-10 years education will change
dramatically. Wolfville is currently a P-9 school; there may be changes, possibly to a P-6 school. She urged Councillors to attend the meeting on September 8 and to send
correspondence, either privately or collectively, to the Board.
Emphasis ours. We believe this comment about a “long future because of the type of school it is and what it can offer” by Mr. Dray might have been said that about almost any school in the Board. And If there are changes at the school which water down what is offered ( e.g. loss of the middle school) that in turn leads to Wolfville being less attractive to young families.
It would seem odd that a guarantee of non-closure would be given at this stage in the review process. The meeting in September was to gather information including input from the community to add to the facilities report in the spring. It is our understanding the Board doesn’t convene to discuss the review report and decide on future action until November. The Eastern Kings facilities report of April is available from the AVRSB here.
In addition to declining enrollments, two of the facilities in this area are at a stage in their building life cycle where they require a significant capital investment to improve the learning environment for students and extend the useful life of the buildings. Decisions will be needed on how these schools will be utilized into the future and what students and grade levels will be housed in them in order to develop the appropriate capital renovation requests for the Department of Education.
In order to provide the best possible data on which to base decisions we have prepared detailed information on the schools in Eastern Kings County. Projections on Enrollment, Staffing, Educational Program, Facility Usage and Facility Maintenance Needs give us an illustration of what our system will look like in a few short years if no action is taken. This information will form the basis of discussions with the various school communities in Eastern Kings County which will lead to formal proposals for consideration by the School Board.
Underlining ours. If you look at the report you will see that, of the four schools covered, Hantsport and Wolfville school are the schools referred to, those in need of upgrade and renovation. This also makes them vulnerable.
Assurances or no assurances, the long term viability of the school should be addressed and the best guarantee of survival is a healthy local school population. This we ain’t got.
Wolfville school got only 13 more students from the “primary bump”. Enrolment declines and increased costs per student over the past several years are worrying and a new playground, agreed to by council at the last minute and paid for out of some undesignated pot of reserves in the budget, is not going to change that. The meeting with the review consultant at the school last month did not fully address this long term concern. Instead it seemed to be an exercise in “what can we put on the wish list”.
The community of Hantsport is very concerned about the future of their school. You might be interested in reading this recent issue of the Hantsport News and Views which discusses the review process and community feelings at some length. We make it available in pdf format here [with permission and thanks to our Hantsport source] nv-sept1-5-sub
We could wish that there had been more attention paid in Wolfville to the school review. Perhaps had there not been so much controversy over the MPS and LUB review … and it seems a pesticide ban is next on the list of Council priorities.
With all the attention on municipal elections many may forget that the school board elections for 5 school districts (which don’t include Wolfville school) are on the same date. There is a list of candidates running in those districts from the AVRSB website: