Community

Mixed reactions about Eastern Passage high school

“I don’t see how any school can survive,” one parent says

The Halifax Regional School Board member for Eastern Passage, Nancy Jakeman, says it’s time to push forward with the plan to build a $21-million high school in the area.

“There is nothing to be gained by looking back,” she said in an email Thursday.

Auditor General Michael Pickup has called for a review of the decision to build a new school in the community.

Pickup wrote in a report, released on Wednesday, that the province is doing a “poor job of planning for new or renovated schools” and that there isn’t enough evidence to show that a new high school in Eastern Passage is needed.

“I think he is right,” said Catherine MacMillan, a parent living 1 km away from the new school’s future location.

MacMillan was initially excited about the plan, but feels the project’s price tag is too high.

“That’s a lot of money that could be spent in so many other areas,” she said, noting activities like sports, extra-curriculars and school trips as examples.

MacMillan has three children. Her two boys both attended Auburn Drive High School, which is a 14 km drive from their home. Her daughter Victoria is currently in Grade 8 and plans to attend Auburn Drive when she reaches Grade 10.

MacMillan said she won’t switch her daughter out when the new school opens in 2018, even though it’ll be much closer.

The auditor general’s report suggests the new school will take enrolment away from both Auburn Drive and Cole Harbour High, even though both schools already have enrolment issues. In 2016, there were 815 students enrolled at Auburn Drive High, versus 947 in 2012. At Cole Harbour, there were 864 students enrolled in 2012, and only 806 this year.

The new school would leave both at less than 50 per cent capacity.

“I don’t see how any school can survive,” said MacMillan.

Jakeman said she will work with the communities of Auburn High and Cole Harbour High through the new school review process.

“There are going to be some difficult decisions to be made, but that’s all the more reason why we must work together,” Jakeman stated in her email.

Education Minister Karen Casey reaffirmed the government’s commitment to build the high school in Eastern Passage.

“The community is expecting that school to be delivered as it was promised to them,” Casey told reporters Thursday.