There’s good news on the horizon for students at the former Bay d’Espoir Academy.
The school was one of four buildings damaged by fires started by arsonist Donald Craig MacHaight in January 2017. He was later sentenced to four years in prison for setting the buildings ablaze.
Since then, the roughly 260 students at Bay d’Espoir Academy have been operating out of the St. Alban’s Town Hall. The building lacks a science lab and a computer room, and has accessibility concerns, to name just a few issues.
Fortune Bay-Cape La Hune MHA Tracey Perry entered a petition from concerned parents during Thursday’s proceedings at the House of Assembly. In response, Education Minister Dale Kirby gave a hint that help is on the way.
While he said he couldn’t get into specifics, Kirby referenced a $13-million insurance policy the government may be able to use a portion of for a repaired structure.
A statement from the Department of Education says an announcement for reconstruction plans will be announced in the coming weeks.
“We recognize that the destruction of the school has had an impact on the community and their patience and co-operation continues to be appreciated,” reads the statement.
Perry says teachers and staff have been doing their best with the building, but it’s time for a permanent solution.
“Parents are gravely concerned. The biggest issue is there’s no science labs. We have Grade 9 through Level 3 students who will be going on to university without having been inside of a lab. That’s very problematic,” said Perry.
“No child should be in that situation in this day and age.”
The town hall building was formerly the school in the area, but 20 years ago the school board of the day decided to locate the school in Milltown. The building wasn’t deemed unsafe, but it was decided it wasn’t good enough for students.
Perry says since the fire, the surrounding communities have banded together to help the students.
The town hall had been renovated since the students left to include the local town council, public library, fitness centre and entertainment centre.
When the fire struck, the surrounding towns came together to fit the building for students. The organizations that used the building moved to different areas — including some residents’ homes — in order to make room for the children.
Perry says it was a remarkable show of community spirit.
“A lot of people have made a lot of sacrifices for the sake of the children. The community building is fantastic. The community is looking forward to make avail of it as a community centre.”