The Last Stand

Schools, Communities and the Future of Rural Nova Scotia

By Paul W. Bennett  

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The hour is late and the clock is ticking for rural and small town communities in Nova Scotia. School closures capture the news headlines, but they signal a more profound development: the gradual, yet relentless, decline in rural populations and a demographic shift that threatens to extinguish what remains of rural communities in Nova Scotia. In The Last Stand, Paul W. Bennett responds to the looming crisis with a new, more accountable, efficient and sustainable model of public schooling. It is time to revitalize rural Nova Scotian communities by reversing the dominant trend toward centralized, bureaucratic school systems. As Bennett argues, schools must be transformed, once again, into vital community hubs. Suspending the divisive school review process will accomplish little, as Bennett demonstrates, unless it leads to building smaller community schools, supporting innovative local enterprises, modelling sustainable living practices and providing community-based education on a more human scale.

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  • Introduction: To Save Small Communities, Save the Schools
  • The Big Shift: Confronting Demographic Gravity and Rural Decline
  • The Disturbing Trend: To Foreclosure
  • Impact of School Closures: On Communities and Children
  • The Turnaround Strategy: Stop School Closures and Focus on Rural Revitalization
  • Developing a Rural Strategy: The Building Blocks
  • Community Building: The Case for Public Engagement
  • The Response: Mushrooming Public Support and Official Silence
  • The Path to Rural Regeneration: Transforming Schools into Community Hubs
  • Appendices


  • Paul W. Bennett


    Paul W. Bennett, Ed.D. (OISE/Toronto) is Founding Director of Schoolhouse Consulting and Adjunct Professor of Education at Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Nova Scotia. In May 2012, he and the Nova Scotia Small Schools Initiative produced a lively, visionary report entitledSchools at the Centre: A Revitalization Strategy for Rural Communities. This book builds upon the report and is a sequel to Vanishing Schools, Threatened Communities: The Contested Schoolhouse in Maritime Canada, 1850 -2010 (2011)

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