But they also chimed in with their ideas.
And she pointed out that certainly public awareness and expression of concerns of the issue was important, but emotion was not enough. Energies must also be put towards finding a solution that addresses greater efficiencies in the operation of the school, and in long term planning.
“Forming a committee of dedicated people is a priority at this time to work in the background gathering information, ideas, making contacts with the local politicians municipal, provincial and federal leaders, and working with the PSSC and District School Board, looking at what other communities have done in a similar situation,” said Janine.
And organizing must be done fast. The school district was given until April to come up with actions that could be implemented by September 2015, and by October 2015 for changes to take place the following year.
Many factors are involved in determining a school’s sustainability: low/declining enrollments; health and safety; quality of education programs and services; transportation; finances; impact on the local community; impact on other schools; and economic development.
Riverside Consolidated, a kindergarten to Grade 5 school, was built in 1905. The 110-year-old heritage building – a focal point of the community - has a capacity for 171 students, and houses 46 students, which means it is operating at only 27 per cent capacity. With the total operating costs considered, the cost per student is $15,101 compared to the provincial average of $7,220.
These are significant economic hurdles to face. But Janine encourages community members to think of possibilities.
“How can this 100+ year old building reduce it physical costs? Solar/wind power? Insulation? New windows? Closing of parts of the building in the winter? What other purposes can the school be used for? Private school, Museum, Interpretation Centre, Cultural Centre, GED classes, Senior's Collage, Craft and Design collage? And I'm sure if the communities brainstorm, many other ideas will surface.“
“The school building will still be there tomorrow," she says, "but with some foresight and planning it will be like a phoenix rising from the ashes better, brighter and with a more secure future.”
Members of the PSSC members will be meeting together later this week and then public meetings will follow. In the meantime, community members are encouraged to connect with others, keep up with what is happening, write to their MLA, share ideas, and get involved by joining the Facebook site: Save Riverside School.
~Link to Riverside Consolidated School website.