Fair thing to do would be to re-examine closure decisions
The Cumberland South MLA is concerned the province will not re-examine school closure decisions made under a 'broken' process
HALIFAX – Cumberland South MLA Jamie Baillie says he’s disappointed the provincial government will not support his amendments to the Education Act that would give rural schools another shot at staying open.
Baillie, the PC Party and opposition leader, introduced the amendment on Tuesday that would have allowed schools scheduled for closure, but not yet closed, to be voluntarily re-examined under the new school review process.
“The latest rejection of these common sense amendments, once again, calls into question the competence of this Liberal government,” Baillie said. “We all know that the review system is broken. It is only fair to let these schools go through the new process.”
The Chignecto-Central Regional School Board voted to close Highland Consolidated, Maitland District Elementary School, River John Consolidated School and Wentworth Consolidated School, but they have yet to close.
“We all agree the old process was broken in that it divided communities and pitted local school board against parents and students and led to bad decisions,” Baillie said. “ If that’s true then common sense says that decisions like Wentworth, made under the broken process, should go through the new one.”
He said it would only be fair for the schools slated for closure under the old review rules to be given the opportunity to go through the new process.
Baillie also wants to have travel time and distance for student travel to be considered in the school review process and whether there may be another school in a different region that is closer to where the student lives.
The province released its new school review process last week that focuses on long-range planning, public engagement and collaborative action.
Key features of the new process require school board to develop long-range regional plans for their schools, identify a group of schools for review in the long-range plan and set up a local school review committee to conduct the reviews and look at the best solutions with help from an independent facilitator.
It also recommends that reports and recommendations be prepared by the committee, not just school board staff, parents or the community. It wants more flexibility on when reviews are to start and recommends review milestones be time-based rather than set calendar dates with school board remaining responsible for deciding whether a school is closed.