Work starting on school district consolidation, says minister
Education minister Clyde Jackman says a transition committee is being set up to oversee the consolidation of all four English school districts into one school board for Newfoundland and Labrador.
In Tuesday's provincial budget, finance minister Jerome Kennedy said government would collapse the province's four English-language school boards into one, and keep the existing French-language school board.
Jackman said the new school district would be provincial in focus, and not focused on the St. John's area at the expense of other parts of Newfoundland and Labrador.
"Provided we maintain a strong presence in [the] central, western and Labrador regions and we intend to do that," said Jackman.
"I really want to focus on that particular point. There will be strong presences in these satellite offices, in these regional offices."
The new board will maintain offices in Gander, Corner Brook and Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
Parent worried about small schools
However, Marie Butt, a parent of children at Swift Current Academy, said she's worried about the future of small schools under one large school board.
She was one of the parents who successfully fought the Eastern School District, the province's largest school district, to keep her community's small school open in 2012.
Butt said the outcome could have been different if the parents had been dealing with an even larger school board.
"We probably would not have won," said Butt. "[A] bigger board and people care less, because they're saying 'well, Swift Current Academy, where's that?'"
Liberal education critic Jim Bennett said the move would create problems in Labrador, where the Labrador District School Board already faces challenges in various communities.
"From really high wealth in Labrador West to extreme growth in the Goose Bay area to coastal Labrador that has remoteness and also social issues," said Bennett. "So now, one office in Goose Bay taking direction from St. John's is supposed to deliver education in Labrador, I think is absolutely disgraceful."
Transition details being sorted
Jackman said the transition committee will sort out details such as the number and location of trustees for the new board, and who in the new board will be responsible for non-education issues such as busing, and human resources.
He added there will be representation from around the province on the transition committee, and that the job search will also begin for a new chief executive officer to run the board.
The new school district will be in place in September for the start of the 2013-14 school year.