Serge Rousselle announces appeal of school closure ruling

Education Minister Serge Rousselle says the provincial government will appeal a judge's recent ruling quashing his decision to close two Saint John-area schools.

Government will seek a stay of judge's orders regarding Brown's Flat and Lorne Middle schools

Education Minister Serge Rousselle says the provincial government will appeal a judge's recent ruling quashing his decision to close two Saint John-area schools.

Education Minister Serge Rousselle says the government will appeal the judge's ruling and seek a stay of the judge's order regarding the two schools. (CBC)
Rousselle broke his silence on the judge's Friday ruling regarding Brown's Flat and Lorne Middle schools on Wednesday afternoon, by issuing a written statement.

"Following a thorough review of Justice Darrell Stephenson's decisions concerning recent school sustainability studies, the government has decided it will appeal the rulings to the New Brunswick Court of Appeal and seek a stay of the judge's order," the statement said.

"As these matters are before the courts, there will be no further comment from the government."

Injunction filed by parents to be heard Friday

Meanwhile, the lawyer representing parents of students from the two schools filed an application earlier Wednesday in Saint John court to quash the decision of the Anglophone School District - South superintendent to proceed with plans to relocate the students, despite the judge's ruling.

Kelly Lamrock, who is a former Liberal education minister, also filed an injunction to stop actions to close the schools.

Kelly Lamrock, who is representing parents of students from Brown's Flat and Lorne Middle schools, says the school district should have had a contingency plan in place. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)
"We have filed asking the court to affirm our reading of the judgement that the schools' status is open, and to block any attempts by the district to try and get a closure by other means, including placing every student at a school somewhere else," he told CBC News.

The application will be heard in court on Friday, he said.

Last Friday, Justice Darrell Stephenson, of the Court of Queen's Bench, quashed the education minister's decision to close the two schools, saying the process that led to the decision was flawed.

But because the judge didn't explicitly order the schools open, the school district says it will keep them closed.

Superintendent Zoë Watson issued a statement on Tuesday saying that the district is still planning on having the students attend their new schools.

It is certainly not an easy decision to recommend a school closure.- Serge Rousselle, education minister

"It would be impossible for us to make the necessary changes to have the schools operational on such short notice," with students, teachers and bus routes already shifted, she had said.

Some parents from another New Brunswick school that was ordered to be shut down by the Department of Education are also gearing up for a legal challenge.

Stephen McCready, a spokesperson for the Coles Island School parents committee, said they feel they are in the same situation as those in Brown's Flat and Lorne Middle school parents.

The education minister says student enrolment has declined more than 26 per cent over the past 15 years, with fewer than 100,000 children attending schools across the province.

"It is certainly not an easy decision to recommend a school closure," Rousselle said in his statement.

"I thank the district education councils for making these tough decisions," he said.

The district education councils, who are elected by the people, recommended the closures in question, which Rousselle accepted.

"They know, like we do, that sound infrastructure planning, which takes into account many different factors, is critical to providing the best possible education for our children and youth," he said.

Education is at the heart of the government's plan to grow the economy and help families, Rousselle stressed, noting the education and early childhood development budget has increased by $33 million this year, making it the largest education budget in the province's history.

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