Kids say what they want school used for

Community groups hold first consultation for St. Pat’s-Alexandra property.

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A playground, a dance studio, a hot tub and, of course, pizza cooking classes.

Yesterday evening, 30 young people aged two to 26 attended a consultation at the North Branch Library about the future of the former St. Pat’s-Alexandra School building. Prompted by adults in the room, including the library’s youth services coordinator Marcus James and reverend Rhonda Britton, kids raised their hands, shouted ideas and asked for the pizza they were promised in exchange for being there.

“An arts centre,” a boy of about 12 said. “Technically everything is art. So you could have anything.”

A toddler raised his tiny hand to speak, and his mother answered for him. He wanted a pool.

A girl in her teens suggested they hold dances in the gym. “We could raise a lot of money,” she said.

“Seniors could have bingo and parties,” she added.

The meeting was the first of several community-driven consultations that will shape the proposal three north-end groups plan to submit to HRM. If council votes in favour of their proposal, the groups can reclaim some or all of the nearly four-acre property on which the school building still sits.

A judge ruled on September 24 the city owed the North End Community Health Centre, the Cornwallis Street Baptist Church and the Mic Mac Native Friendship Centre a duty of fairness after council voted to ignore a procedure for the disposal of surplus schools.

There is no firm deadline for the proposal just yet, but area councillor Jennifer Watts, who attended the meeting, said it might come up in February.

The longer the city waits, the more time the community has to plan, she said.

After this round of community-hosted consultations, HRM will hold its own consultation, Watts said.

“I don’t want you to get discouraged,” Britton told the young people. “It can take a long time.”

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