I suspect the District Education Council had a similar feeling last night as a wave of people swept into the Riverside-Albert Recreation Centre. Nearly 400 adults (along with many babies and young children) attended the public meeting about the future of Riverside Consolidated School. With an enrollment of fewer than fifty students, the K-5 school is on the list of schools that might be closed as early as June 2015...but not if the people of Albert County can help it.
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Rural Albert County is standing strong and united. Several people asked insightful questions last night. Many people asked about the wisdom of putting elementary students on the bus with high school students for more than two hours a day. Others asked about the effect on the community – who will live in an areav 4 with no elementary school for miles and how will we find a work force, particularly once the Fundy Trail is completed.
A mother in Alma asked the members of the DEC what they would do if they were in her situation – her daughter will be four years old when she starts kindergarten this fall. If Riverside closes, her daughter would take an hour and a half bus ride to Hillsborough with some students as old as 19.
Harry Doyle, a member of the DEC, replied, “If I had a four-year-old daughter, would she be on that bus for three hours a day?”
“Absolutely not,” he continued. “That is not fair, not reasonable and not respectable.” Doyle’s statements brought a standing ovation.
Phyllis Sutherland, a community activist and former teacher, summed up the evening by saying. “This is Albert County and I’m so proud.”
This was only the first wave of public reaction. Community members are now gathering data and preparing presentations for the April 14th public meeting (to be held at 7pm at the Riverside Recreation Centre).
The DEC’s presentation will be posted later today. A link will be posted to www.connectingalbertcounty.org/current-news along with details about how to register to participate in the next public meeting.
Janet Wallace is a freelance writer and community activist in rural Albert County. www.JanetWallace.ca