The view from Hantsport

We have had occasion in the past to be in contact with Heather Davidson, editor of Hantsport’s  News and Views “the monthly community newspaper with no ads.” .[We have been corrected- it now has a few ads!]  We contacted her recently to get another point of view on the school issue.  These excerpts, reporting  on recent school meetings, were taken from the upcoming (Dec.) issue of News and Views.We have interjected some thoughts.

Reporting on the Hantsport meeting of Nov. 16th:

…Citizens, under the leadership of consultant Jemma Lambert, discussed the school’s future as set out in the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board’s Eastern Kings School Review Phase 2. Town council discussed the issues but made no decision. It organized this meeting to hear the public’s opinion. …
The good news: the school is not slated to close in the near future. The board advocates all grade 9 students attend Horton High School. Colin Chase, principal of Hantsport School,stated that the board wants the future of grade 9s discussed.
The board seems to prefer one consolidated “middle level” (grades 6-8), but, Paula Lunn (Hantsport’s school board resentative) added, “not necessarily separate.”

This we think is an important point – “Not necessarily separate.”

…Jemma reminded the audience that the school board will be basing their decisions utilizing several criteria: operating costs, facility improvement costs, student enrollment, plus a range of mitigating factors.

A member of the audience asked, “Is the board considering what is best for the students?” No one answered.

Isn’t that a good question!? One wonders why no one from the Board had the cojones to answer.

Marie Doucette asked if Hantsport and Wolfville would work together for option 4. CAO Jeff Lawrence responded that the town asked Wolfville to jointly pursue option 4. After an initial meeting with its Citizen Advisory Committee, Wolfville declined
the invitation.

That statement is revealing. We recall that someone at the later Wolfville meeting suggested working together with the other communities to show a united front for option 4 (status quo minus Gr. 9)  yet we don’t remember anyone from the Wolfville Advisory Committee or our Town Council responding to that comment to disclose that an offer had been made and declined. Why not?

At the end of the meeting, some supported keeping P-9. Another favored P-8. The least favored option was P-5. Its implementation would eventually result in the closing of the school and the inevitable decline of the town. Every town in Nova Scotia has its own school – the hub of the community.
If Hantsport grade 9s went to Horton, Chris Cuvilier (L) was concerned about the limited sports program for grade 9s. Renda VanderToorn would regret the loss of role models.

Do those arguments sound familiar?

The report on our Wolfville meeting (Nov 18th)  suggested it was more partisan than the Hantsport one, at least according to George Townsend who attended both.

George acknowledged that people want to keep their
school. But he advocated making the best decision – not a political one – for the good of the children’s education.

A voice of reason.

Mayor Bob Stead reported that the people at the meeting were passionate about their school the way it is. “We went into the meeting knowing the school will remain open. Grade 9s going to Horton is the foregone conclusion.”

A pitch for passion.

The News and Views reporter estimated the crowd at the L. E. Shaw meeting on Nov. 23 at about 200 and she noted how the towns were pitted one against the other at that point.

…The large sign,SUPPORTING HANTSPORT SCHOOL STAYING AT GRADES P-9 KEEP OUR KIDS LIVING & LEARNING LOCALLY greeted everyone outside and inside the building. Sweaters prominently displayed buttons reading SAVE WOLFVILLE SCHOOL and tags reading HANTSPORT SCHOOL.

Speakers for Wolfville outnumbered Hantsport and Avonport speakers 6 to 1 while no one from Gaspereau spoke.

Speaking on behalf of the Hantsport PTA, Penny Sheffield stated.“Children are not just numbers on a spreadsheet.” She advocated that taxpayers make the
decisions concerning the schools.” Penny argued that changes to the schools will change the communities.
Jemma Lambert, Hantsport town council’s consultant, also emphasized the significant relationship between the school and the community. She outlined the importance of the small school movement. The group Jemma represented favoured Hantsport and Wolfville as P-8.

Both LE Shaw supporters stated that parents of children at the school favoured LE Shaw as a middle school.
Wolfville representatives including the mayor, several factions of the School Advisory Commitee, a business owner, and two students favoured Wolfville and Hantsport as P-8.

A certain uniformity of views in each community it seems.

At the end of the report is this contact information which might also be useful to our readers.

Send written submissions until February 28 to Stuart Jamieson, Director of Finance & Operations, Annapolis
Valley Regional School Board P.O. Box 340, Berwick, N.S. B0P 1E0 or by email to
Suggestion: balance your emotions with facts from the Hantsport School Study.

The News and Views issue is not online but there are photos and contact information available at the News And Views website.

Later (Nov. 28th) – Register report of the Nov. 23 meeting.


2 responses to “The view from Hantsport

  1. One issue with small schools is that they often end up having students for say 1.5 `full’ classes in a particular grade. (I think `full’ is defined, by the bureaucrats, to be about 24 students.) So, we end up with kids from two grades being lumped into the same class. OK, I’m impressed that some teachers/kids seem to be able to deal with that, but it’s still `less than ideal’.

    I presume that such pedagogical matters are relevant to the discussion? One obvious solution is restructuring. The other is to hire a few more teachers and have a few smaller classes. I’ve not seen where AVRSB has carefully weighed the relative costs/advantages. (AVRSB seems to adopt an authoritarian approach without much justification for it’s thesis — perhaps I missed something?)

    The other issue, in my mind, is that Wolfville is on the edge of a significant growth area (centered on New Minas). I’m not convinced by the way AVRSB does it’s demographics… or does AVRSB arrange school zones to create the demographic trends that it desires?

  2. Perhaps the problem is with that (arbitrary? bureaucratic?) definition of a full class? Perhaps parents would accept a class of 27 instead of 24 if it means they could keep the school as it is? Is it possible previous (successful) campaigns to legislate small classes are coming back to bite us? We should be more careful what we ask for. Unintended consequences are often the result of over planning.
    We lost control of our school years ago. We lost control of our police force recently.