Sackville group proposes K-12 'community learning campus' to replace traditional schools

A group of citizens in Sackville is trying to change the way new schools are built in New Brunswick as the province's curriculum moves toward more "experiential" learning for students.

Sackville Schools 2020 committee pushes for a new approach to education that embraces the community

Members of Sackville Schools 2020 have been working on their proposal for a new community school for more than three years. From left to right, Agnes Koller, Michael Fox, Brian Neilson and Karen Sears, in the spring of 2017. (Vanessa Blanch/CBC)

A group of citizens in Sackville is trying to change the way new schools are built in New Brunswick as the province's curriculum moves toward more "experiential" learning for students.

On Monday night, members of Sackville Schools 2020, will present their idea for a "community learning campus" to replace the elementary, middle and high schools in their small town.

Members of the committee envision a new campus with connected elementary, middle and high schools that would share resources and facilities with one another and the larger community. (Sackville Schools 2020)

The proposal comes as the Anglophone East district education council conducts a sustainability study, looking at the future of Salem Elementary, Marshview Middle and Tantramar high schools.

Superintendent Gregg Ingersoll said earlier this month that "chances are" Marshview Middle, which was built in the late 1940s, will close.

"Marshview Middle School is the catalyst in this," Ingersoll said. "It's 68 years old … so something needs to happen there."

Anglophone East superintendent Gregg Ingersoll said citizens are 'more and more interested' in being part of deciding where new schools will be located and how they will fit into the larger community. (CBC)

The District is considering four options:

  1. Maintain the status-quo.
  2. Close Marshview Middle School, reconfigure Salem to kindergarten to Grade 5, and Tantramar to Grade 6 to 12.  
  3. Close Marshview Middle School, build a new K-to-5 school and build a new Grade 6-to-12 high school.
  4. Consider combinations of items 2 and 3 or another option brought forward during the study.

New model would share resources

Sackville Schools 2020 committee member Laura Reinsborough is encouraged that the district education council is willing to consider "another option."

"We've looked at schools in many different parts of Canada and beyond and we've put together a model that we think will work well for Sackville — a community learning campus," she said.

Sackville Schools 2020 committee points to examples across the country of community schools that offer inspiring spaces for learning, including Strathcona Tweedsmuir School in Okotoks, Alta. (Sackville Schools 2020)

With curriculum goals of "deep learning," she said, it doesn't make sense to look at the three schools in Sackville individually.

"Do we build a single, isolated school that serves only the purpose of education or do we build something that is able to see the broader vision of education, that also encompasses community services, and we can leverage additional funding to do that?

"That's where this proposal has something different than what the typical process would offer."

Reinsborough said educators are doing their best with the old school buildings Sackville has, but new spaces that include the larger community would be huge. 

"If we could design buildings with that in mind and have that broader input from the staff, the students as well as the community members, I think we'd end up with some pretty spectacular results.

Sackville Schools 2020 committee member Laura Reinsborough said the proposal for a new community campus is about more than what the buildings would look like. It is about the community having 'significant input' in Sackville's education system. (Twitter)

Fellow committee member Michael Fox said "virtually every other province in Canada" has a consultation process, and New Brunswickers deserve the same.

"Policy 409 basically recommends the closure of one school and then we leave it up to the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure to decide on the future of schools in Sackville," he said.

We could have community kitchens … we could have performance space, shared athletic space — really the whole community rises with this learning campus.- Michael Fox, Sackville Schools 2020

The "connected campus model" the committee is proposing would allow all 1,000 students in Sackville to share facilities and resources such as a library, with one another, and the larger community.

"We have libraries at all of these schools that have very few funds to grow and develop," Fox said. "The town library is always struggling to get funding. Why not have a community-based library where the province becomes a partner."

"We could have community kitchens … we could have performance space, shared athletic space — really the whole community rises with this learning campus."

Communities want to be involved

Ingersoll said the school district is seeing more and more communities like Sackville that want to be closely involved in the future of education.

"People really want to have a say in not only where their school is but what does a school look like, and how does it fit into the community," Ingersoll said.

"I think that's something we're going to see more and more in the future and it makes sense."

This space at Norma Rose Point School in Vancouver is another example of the type of 'joyful, light-filled' space that members of Sackville Schools 2020 envision as part of a new community school campus. (Sackville Schools 2020)

Reinsborough said the proposal from Sackville Schools 2020 isn't just about what the new campus would look like, it's also about the community being able to have input throughout the process.

"We know there's interest from the community members to help decide things like the right grade configuration, like additional amenities that we might want to have in the school and also about location," she said.

"And we know, typically throughout the process, that doesn't get to be decided with very much community influence at all."

Laura Reinsborough and Michael Fox are with the Sackville Schools 2020 committee. The public forum happens tonight from 6:30-8:30pm at Tantramar Regional High School. 12:13

Sackville Schools 2020 is hosting a community forum on Monday, Oct. 29, at 6:30 p.m. at Tantramar Regional High School.

The public will have the opportunity to make presentations to the district education council about the future of Sackville's schools on Nov. 27, at 7 p.m. at Tantramar Regional High School.

A final recommendation will be made by the district education council at a public meeting on Dec. 4, at Lou MacNarin School in Dieppe.

with files from Information Morning Moncton