Port Edward Elementary School will live to see another year.
At a special school board meeting on March 29 in Charles Hays Secondary School’s multi-purpose room, school trustees unanimously defeated the third reading on a motion that would have seen Port Edward Elementary closed by August 31, 2011.
After voting down the motion, trustees praised the efforts of the District of Port Edward, which has been working towards building a new elementary school around the District office. To do so, however, its residents need to first approve the District borrowing $2 million to build the new school; a referendum on the issue will take place in Port Edward on May 7.
By keeping the school open another year, the school district has given Port Edward some time to build a new school — that is, if the “yes” side wins the referendum.
The school board had given the first two readings to closing the school last year. It argued that the school needed $3 million in maintenance upgrades, something the school board couldn’t afford.
But Trustee Bart Kuntz said he would not be giving third reading to the school closure bylaw because of the District’s efforts to keep a school in its community. “I would hate to train-wreck that at this point,” he said.
Moments after the school-closure motion was defeated, another one passed unanimously. Trustees voted to give the first two readings to closing Port Edward Elementary by August 31, 2012. If the referendum is successful and a new school is built, this bylaw would allow the old school to be closed.
School board chair Tina Last said she had hoped she would never have to read another school-closure bylaw. “But I’m kind of okay with reading this one,” she said.
The mood in the multi-purpose room was jovial for the course of the meeting. A delegation of Port Edward politicians sat front-row-centre in the gallery, and afterwards celebrated the decision by the school board. “I can’t thank you enough,” said Mayor Dave MacDonald, speaking on behalf of his fellow councillors and chief administrative officer. “I have no doubt in my mind that on May 7 we’ll be moving forward.”
Indeed, the spirits were so high in the room that at one point, Trustee Leonard Alexcee challenged the District’s representatives to playing a game of floor hockey against the school board.
It is now up to the residents of Port Edward. If more than half of them vote “yes” in the referendum, they will approve the $2 million loan the District says it needs for the new school. Should that happen, Port Ed would own the building, and School District 52 would pay rent to run its curriculum at the new school.
If the “no” side wins the referendum, however, it could be the final setback to having an elementary school in Port Edward after 2012.
~Written by Chris Armstrong