Saint John forest school finds new home near Foster Thurston Drive

The owner of a forest school in the Saint John area says he’s found his happy ending and a new location for his outdoor classrooms.

Saint John common council agreed to rezone land near Foster Thurston Drive, allowing for a K-8 schoolhouse

"I’m very pleased, especially because we could do it in our community," said Tim Jones, owner of the forest school. (Joseph Tunney/CBC)

The owner of a forest school in the Saint John area has found a new location for his outdoor classrooms.

"I think, sometimes, everything happens for a reason," said Tim Jones, who operates the Tír na nÓg Forest School.

"And I'm very happy. I'm very pleased, especially because we could do it in our community." 

K-8 school permitted 

Saint John common council agreed Monday night to rezone the piece of land Jones had purchased near Foster Thurston Drive, allowing construction of a kindergarten to Grade 8 schoolhouse.

In July 2017, the owner told Saint John council he needed access to a canteen building near Lily Lake to expand his school and keep it within city limits.

At the time, Jones said he needed a quick decision from council in order to be open for the upcoming school year, but was denied access.

Now he says that's water under the bridge and believes his school, which provides year-round outdoor instruction to about 50 children, has a positive future in Saint John.

"We were focused with working with the city with this development and it's been a real positive relationship," he said.

Last year, Jones' teachers operated their classrooms out of a property near the Cherry Brook Zoo. (Joseph Tunney/CBC)

At council's meeting Monday night, councillors praised the new location for the school, which has classes from preschool up to Grade 5.

Coun. Gary Sullivan said he passed the gravel road leading to the construction zone and was concerned something unsightly would be developed in the green space.  

"I was scared to death it would be a subdivision of some sort," he said. "Then I read my council kit and thought, 'perfect.'"

Concerns about traffic

Coun. Donna Reardon did raise one concern.

"What about the road speed along there? It's 60 kilometres an hour. I've driven Foster Thurston. It's a commuter route," she said.

But Jones said he's hired engineers to conduct a traffic impact study. It determined the entrance road was safe for vehicles turning onto the main street, allowing for traffic up to 70 kilometres per an hour.

"There were no other issues raised from the engineering analysis," city staff told council.

Reardon also raised the possibility that down the road, a larger structure will be built on the land, possibly by another organization like the Department of Education.

Last year, Jones' teachers operated their classrooms out of a property near the Cherry Brook Zoo.

The private school has an aggressive schedule, hoping to be open in early September — something Jones said parents are excited for.

"Overall, the subjects that we focus on and the curriculum we focus on isn't probably all that much different for the end result than a public school system," he said.

"How we get to those results is the difference."

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