Location of new west end Moncton school gets mixed reviews
New school beside Bernice McNaughton High School would replace Hillcrest and Bessborough schools
Plans for a new elementary and middle school in Moncton's west end has provoked concern among some parents, who don't like the location.
The new school will be built next to Bernice MacNaughton High School and will eventually replace the smaller and aging Hillcrest and Bessborough schools.
A 2022 construction start on the school was announced last week.
Jeremy Nelson, who has a child at Bessborough, said he's been part of parents groups for four years exploring the construction of the new school and believes there is no appetite for moving the school that far away.
"The overwhelming response has been that we want to see the school stay in the neighbourhood," said Nelson.
"We were surprised, I guess you can say, to hear about the announcement last week."
Not everyone is against the new school or its location.
Harry Doyle, chair of the District Education Council for Anglophone East, said he was happy to see construction on the new school approved before the provincial election call two weeks ago.
"When elections are called and the projects aren't already, you know, on the books, they sometimes get cancelled," said Doyle.
"But this one worked out."
Sense of community
Nelson said the loss of the two schools would be a major blow to the neighbourhood's sense of community.
"I've heard from senior citizens in the neighbourhood who say that just when they can walk through the neighbourhood at recess time and see children playing on the playground, it brings joy to their day," said Nelson.
"It's been a part of that community for 60 years. And the trend in New Brunswick to move these schools like Moncton High out of the heart of the community, I don't think has been a great experiment in many cases. "
But it's not just social cohesion that Nelson is concerned about. The safety of students is also at risk, he said.
While the Hillcrest and Bessborough schools are in sleepy residential neighbourhoods, the new school would be built along St. George Boulevard, one of Moncton's busiest streets.
"I don't think anybody could objectively say there's a safe way for young children to cross that busy street," said Nelson.
"I think it would lead to an increased number of bus students and or students whose parents didn't feel comfortable sending them walking."
But Doyle said there is plenty of traffic at the schools' current locations, especially when students are coming and going.
"It's congested on that street by that school at the best of times," said Doyle.
"If we had construction crews in there building on that property, it would be tight and it would be difficult to, you know, manoeuvre around. "
As for a new location, Nelson said he would like to see the new school built on the same grounds as the current Bessborough school.
But Doyle, a former principal at a school that was built adjacent to an existing school, said that brings problems.
"When you're trying to build a school on a property where a school is in existence and kids are all over the place, it's troublesome," said Doyle.
"It's a little bit dangerous, I think. So I'm not unhappy that they're building it in a new location.
With files from Information Morning Moncton & Khalil Akhtar