Elite private school announced for Annapolis County
$62M Gordonstoun franchise expected to attract students from Asia, Europe and North America
Plans to build a $62-million elite private boarding school with a royal connection in Annapolis County, N.S., were announced Saturday in Bridgetown, N.S.
It will be a franchise of the Gordonstoun School in Scotland. Notable alumni of the school include Prince Charles and his father, Prince Philip.
But on Sunday, the developer had little to offer about how the school will be financed. As well, Premier Stephen McNeil said in an interview the province has not made a financial commitment to the project.
"Gordonstoun is one of the, if not the premiere, private school in the world," John Ferguson, Annapolis County's CAO, said at the announcement on Saturday.
The exact location of the school, which will offer Grade 9-12 and cost about $67,000 a year, has yet to be determined, but Ferguson said it has been narrowed down to three sites between Annapolis Royal and Bridgetown. He said it is the first franchise of Gordonstoun.
Ferguson said there is a historical connection between Annapolis County and Gordonstoun. He said the land where the school is located in Scotland was owned by the Gordon clan.
Sir Robert Gordon was made a baronet for Nova Scotia in 1625, four years after Nova Scotia received its charter — a charter that's on display in Annapolis Royal in Fort Anne, Ferguson said.
"[Gordon] received 16,000 acres of shore land in Nova Scotia. So it's a historical connection on the property and that was one of the interesting pieces that came together," he said.
The school is expected to open in 2020, starting with Grade 9 students. It will be built in phases to eventually accommodate 600 students, most expected to come from Asia, Europe and North America, Ferguson said.
He said funding for the school is coming primarily from European investors.
Ferguson said the school will give the local area a boost economically.
"Gordonstoun's model is to buy local, to deal with the local meat market, the local produce area and to try to supply as much of the needs of Gordonstoun from the local community," he said.
There could be some benefits from tourism, Ferguson said. He said many families with students at international schools will rent or buy homes in the area or stay for extended periods of time.
Developer says taxpayers not on the hook
CBC News contacted Edward Farren, the developer of the project, on Sunday to ask about financing for the project and his connection to Gordonstoun School.
Farren would not provide details on how the school would be financed and would not talk about his connection to the school. But he said taxpayers are not on the hook.
In a Facebook video of the announcement, Farren, responding to a question from the audience, said had spoken to the premier about political support for the project.
"It doesn't matter if you're Amazon locating whether in Atlanta or Toronto, or some small or large business wanting to locate in this county, they want to know that they're wanted. Most ask for cash up front," Farren said in the video.
He said he told the premier the project needs a letter to show the banks there is support.
"For that letter, we will pay the province an economic return of 1.5 per cent, and on the $7.2-million [guaranteed loan] that gives the province $15,000 plus a year for a letter that we're just going to show the banks," Farren said in the video.
Farren later clarified to CBC News that the project is seeking a loan guarantee from the Municipality of Annapolis County, not the province, after the provincial government said it couldn't provide such a loan.
Premier: 'We don't do loan guarantees'
McNeil said Sunday the province was approached in the past about a loan guarantee for the school development, but it's out of the question.
"We don't do loan guarantees," McNeil said. "I was very straightforward."
But McNeil said the province is looking at the Municipal Government Act to see if it's possible for fiscally stable municipalities to borrow money from the Nova Scotia Municipal Finance Corporation "to be able to invest in things that they believe are in the best interest of the people they represent."
He said discussions about changes can't happen until the house reconvenes in the spring.
Overall concept 'a great one'
He said he was approached about the project about a year ago and had an opportunity to visit Gordonstoun on a trip to Scotland.
"The overall concept and project is a great one," he said. "I believe it's the right one for building on international students coming to Nova Scotia. These are important pieces of economic investments for the province."
McNeil said the project would be "a tremendous economic boost" to Annapolis County and could be a way to retain more international students for Nova Scotia universities.
At the public announcement, those in attendance were told there is currently no provincial or municipal money committed to the project.
No one from Gordonstoun was at the announcement, but Ferguson said school officials have been in Nova Scotia.
CBC News contacted school officials via email and phone on Saturday, but they could not immediately be reached for comment.