Members of the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board may have thought they were doing a favour for supporters of three rural schools threatened with closure on Wednesday when they delayed a decision until next March on a motion to reconsider their original decision to close the schools.
If they did, they are mistaken. Parents and supporters of the three schools in question – Wentworth, River John and Maitland – stormed out of Wednesday’s school board meeting in protest because they believed the board would do the right thing in their mind and accept a request from Education Minister Karen Casey to delay any potential school closures until June 30, 2016 – a year later than the date announced in the board’s original motion.
The delay would give all the parties adequate time to effectively consider the hub school concept. However, instead of doing what the minister asked, the board decided that March 2015 would give the communities enough time to study the concept and come up with a plan that could allow them to save their schools.
Understandably those trying to save the schools feel the deck is still stacked against them. The majority of board members think six months is enough time for these communities to come up with a plan for a hub school when the government won’t even be releasing information on the concept until September.
Over the past few years the CCRSB has not been afraid to take the province to task for education funding cuts it felt would hinder the quality of education in the district. There were several times when the former NDP government publicly vented its frustration at the school board for what it called stoking the fires of public opinion.
The board had a real opportunity to show the minister that it’s willing to co-operate when it comes to the politically sensitive issue of closing schools in rural communities. While the board is well within its legal rights to proceed as it sees fit on this matter, going its own way on this issue could aggravate the relationship between the board and the minister – who incidentally used to be an employee of the board.
The board claims the end result hasn’t been pre-determined and it may also decide in March to wait longer, but its actions on Wednesday would suggest otherwise.
We don’t want to advocate keeping schools open for the sake of keeping them open, but we feel all options should be considered and thoroughly evaluated before any final decisions are made on these schools. The board’s stance may not allow that to happen.