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Low enrolment puts schools on the chopping block

The Halifax Regional School Board is deciding the fate of two schools tonight.

The Halifax Regional School Board is deciding the fate of two schools tonight.

St. Patrick’s-Alexandra and Saint Mary’s Elementary both face being shutdown, while Dartmouth's Alderney Elementary is also on the chopping block. The board will vote tomorrow night on whether that school should stay open.

St. Patrick’s-Alexandra has only 85 students enrolled this year in a school with a capacity for 828. It also has deferred maintenance and capital upgrade costs of $1.15 million.

“Nobody knows,” said St. Patrick’s-Alexandra vice-principal Tammy Murray. “Everyone here is very hopeful and our students are in disbelief that this sort of thing is even happening.”

The school board will decide whether to close the two Halifax schools at a special meeting tonight at Citadel High School at 6 p.m.

Murray thinks the closure rumours contributed to a big drop-off in enrolment from last year.

“If you’re a parent of a child who’s going to start primary, with an impending school closure, would you register them at this school or would you go to the school that they’re possibly going to end up at anyway,” Murray asked.

St. Patrick’s-Alexandra’s 10 per cent capacity is by far the lowest of the three threatened schools. Alderney is also less than half full, with 101 students and a capacity for 220. Saint Mary’s is close to full with 120 students and a capacity for 132.

The previous school board started the review process for these schools. Student populations have been dropping at many schools in recent years.

“It was to do with student population, but also with the infrastructure of the buildings themselves,” said school board chair Irvine Carvery. “As you know, most of our schools on the peninsula are old, 1950-era.”

During the review process there were several consultations where parents showed up to lobby for keeping the schools open.

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