Schools in Dorchester, Riverside-Albert under review
Parents and community leaders argue schools vital to rural villages and enrolment is rising
A review by the District Education Council in the Anglophone East School District is underway to determine the future of the two rural schools in southeastern New Brunswick because of low enrolment.
Dorchester Consolidated, a kindergarten to grade 8 school, currently has 66 students while Riverside Consolidated, a kindergarten to grade 5 school, has 45.
Jerome Bear, the mayor of Dorchester, says enrolment is increasing at the local school and there are many young families in his area that depend on it.
"This is almost like the final nail in the coffin that would slowly turn Dorchester into a ghost town," Bear said.
Kelly Edgett, chair of the Parent School Support Committee at Riverside-Albert Consolidated School, says busing students to Hillsborough Elementary is unreasonable.
"We have like a kindergarten kid that will be starting next year. I did the bus trip myself — he would be on the bus for an hour and a half each way. I don't know if anyone would put their kid that small on a bus for an hour and a half."
Bear says with several schools in Moncton also below 50 per cent capacity it might make more sense, and save more money, to close a school in the city.
"They're going to have to hire two more buses here in the Dorchester area to bus the kids, then they're going to have to bus kids over in Riverside a long distance to go to school each day — is that really looking at the children? Not really."
Schools tied to business
According to education policy in New Brunswick, schools that are at or below 50 per cent capacity are reviewed by the District Education Council.
Anglophone South School District is considering the future of Browns Flat Elementary and Norton Elementary.
If schools are recommended for closure, there is a six-month period during which parents and others will be given at least three opportunities to talk about the prospect of closing the schools and challenge the decision.
Edgett says she is worried that is the road her community is heading down.
"We have the feeling that the end result will be closure because we are a small school and our cost per student is quite high," she said.
Bear says Dorchester is starting to see an increase in local businesses and having a local school makes a difference.
"It is a good draw because of the quality of education they receive because it is a small school … they get more attention and their grades show it."
Edgett also worries that closing the school would be short-sighted with the Fundy Trail Parkway expected to be completed in 2018.
"If we don't have a school, who's going to move in and work these businesses … these people aren't going to move here if there's no school."