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Douglas Elementary School March 17, 2011 Public Meeting #2 Notes In attendance 97 individuals (DEC representatives-- Lanore Russell, Rhonda Baker Gordon, Ron Buck, Jane Buckley (Vice-Chair), Alison Spray, Lesley Balcom, Jeannine St. Amand (Chair), Rick Hunter, Andrew Corey, MLA Troy Lifford, District Office Staff -- Dianne Wilkins, Acting Superintendent, Wanda Bauer, Director of Finance and Administration, Dale O’Brien, Assistant Facilities Manager, Karen Johnston, Coordinator of Administration, School Principal, Susan Young, 12 students, 69 public) At 7:00 p.m. Acting Superintendent Dianne Wilkins opened the meeting with a welcome and introductions. District Education Council Chair, Jeannine St. Amand briefly clarified the role of the District Education Council in the application of Policy 409. Prior to presentations by the school community, Wanda Bauer, Director of Finance and Administration provided a brief update on a number of issues including on-going potable water testing, air quality test results, wastewater treatment system and facility failures which occurred between March 11-14, 2011 (electrical contact in the boiler burned up blowing the main fuses powering the building resulting in loss of all power, and water in the classrooms due to heavy rain). A response was also given to an inquiry made at the January 17, 2011 meeting regarding the possibility of connecting Douglas School to the City sewer system. Public Presentations: Will C. van den Hoonaard (general public) began by stating that Douglas School is a living heritage, recognized for educational achievement. Education is an investment; children are our best resource, not an expense and should never by warehoused. Mr. van den Hoonaard made a number of points in reference to Policy 409: there is growth in Douglas, with residents contributing $40,000,000 annually to the province; health and safety, “how many buildings in Fredericton are up to code; consideration must be given to length of time students spend on buses daily as well community and parental involvement. He also spoke of the importance of schools to immigrants when considering moving to New Brunswick and concluded by stating he was going to invite Rick Mercer to do a show on the oldest School in Canada. Peter Moore (parent) & Wendy Chisholm-Spragg (general public) presented information on behalf of the PSSC. Enrolment at Douglas is steady; the population of Douglas has increased at least 10% in last 20 years. Growth on north side of Fredericton has resulted in new schools being built. Douglas school is safe. DSS will cover $12,000 for increased monitoring of the septic system as well as $25,000-$30,000 for the required repairs. The $175,000 allocated should be used to repair the school. It is not uncommon for both individuals and schools located in rural areas to have issues with septic and water systems; using bottled water is acceptable. Opening the doors and windows addresses the issue of high CO₂ levels. Appropriate security systems are in place as required by building code; during the last fire drill students exited the building in 59 seconds. Quality of education at Douglas is excellent, assessment results exceeding those of neighbouring schools. Creative use of the building enables staff to meet the educational needs of students. All students are involved in sports activities; a gymnasium on site is not essential. Parents are fine with not having a cafeteria and are proud of the Sustainability Project students participate in. Moving students to Royal Road School would substantially increase the time students spend on the bus each day. Douglas students go on to do very well after completing their elementary education. Education is not about dollars and cents; PSSC does not believe it will cost $2,000,000 to repair the building. Little money has been invested into Douglas since 1995. The average cost per student for utilities is not out of line with other schools in District and the majority of District 18 schools require substantial investment to bring them up to present day standards. Modifications will be required to accommodate Douglas students at Royal Road. The combined student population would find Royal Road School at 79% functional capacity (Optimum 60% - 80%), increasing the student to staff ratio. Douglas School is the only school in the Parish of Douglas and has strong ties to the community. The school has an impact on the culture of the community reflecting values and beliefs. PSSC has been active in their efforts to obtain community involvement. (A number of comments from the PSSC survey were read to support the importance of Douglas School to the community.) Research supports the benefits of small schools and a National Realtors Association indicates that school quality and proximity to a school is a deciding factor for approximately 1/4 of homeowners. Jeannie MacIssac (general public) (comment) her children attended Douglas in the 1990’s and she found the education to be second to none, with students well prepared to move on with confidence and the ability to achieve. Francis Lipsett (parent) has a son in kindergarten and within a week of starting at Douglas he was comfortable and confident. All criteria listed in Policy 409 has not been fully explored such as transportation, economic development and community involvement. This should be done prior to a decision on the future of the school. The ADI building assessment was prepared and reviewed by the same individual (engineer). The cost indicated in the report for the installation of an elevator appears to be high, perhaps the district could apply for an exemption from this requirement and address accessibility in another fashion. Wanda Bauer clarified that neither the school district or the Department of Education employ engineers (DSS has a limited number), as a result this service is outsourced. The district has used ADI previously in this capacity as they have considerable experience with the design and construction of schools in both the district and the province. Recently an elevator was installed at Harvey Elementary with a cost in excess of $600,000. The district has never completed a major school renovation without addressing accessibility issues. Gordie Munro’s (general public) son transferred to Douglas School and his self-esteem and behaviour improved within months. The low student teacher ratio has a positive impact on students. There are many benefits to preserving the history of small schools. A fund raising concert with the potential of raising $20,000 is being organized for the fall. Leanne Perrin (general public) has a 1 ½ year old son, who would be the fifth generation to attend Douglas. It is not about the air quality, this can be addressed; it is about the peacefulness and the history. Kailey MacIssac (previous student) Closing the school would affect so many people; she wants her brother and sister to go there. Douglas students achieve in sports. Makenna O’Dell (grade 5 student) Loves the small school where everyone knows and plays together; Douglas is bully free. She wants her little sister to go to Douglas and when she grows up she wants her children to experience education in a small school. Margaret Hamilton (general public) told how classes of Douglas students have visited her orchard and she has found them to be the best in the city. Douglas School needs to be protected; it is the centre of the community. Students deserve to attend Douglas where they are cherished and blessed. Mrs. Hamilton made a $1000 financial commitment. Melissa Sheridan Embser-Herbert (parent) noted that the positive points of a transfer to Royal Road have been discussed but not the negatives. Shawn St. Clair (parent) noted it might be more effective to have DEC hear a summary only rather than additional or repeat presentations. Lori Hill (general public) advised that her two children attended Douglas and when they started at Leo Hayes High School, most of the executive (SRC) were former Douglas students. DEC needs to give consideration to the affect on future leaders. Jeannine St. Amand noted that on April 14, 2011 the regular DEC meeting will be held. Council will receive a summary of the points from this meeting. A few people may have the opportunity to make brief presentations. Acting Superintendent, Dianne Wilkins, closed with a thank you to everyone for their participation and to District Staff for their efforts.
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