Education Minister asks schools to halt reviews
Ramona Jennex says the government will create a new process
The Minister of Education has asked school boards to stop all ongoing and upcoming school reviews as the government draws up a new process.
Parents at some schools have complained that the current process is unfair.
Minister Ramona Jennex revamped the school closure process just two years ago, but she admits the current system isn't working either.
"What we're hearing back is that those improvements definitely did not go far enough, it's still very adversarial," Jennex said. "We cannot have school closures just to balance budgets. We need to make sure a school closure is — if we have to close a school, it's based on the community and what the community needs."
Jennex has asked school boards to suspend the school review process for 2013-2014. She also wants boards to delay any school closings decided in 2012-13.
But Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil questioned the Minister's motives.
"This has everything to do about the impending election, it has nothing to do about the best interests of children in this province and their quality of education," he said.
"If it had anything to do with education, the Minister would stand up, reinvest her $65 million that she has cut from public education and allow school board members and allow parents to build an education system that their kids can thrive in this province."
The news release said the new system will be included in a report that will be released this fall, and it will be in place by spring of 2014.
School boards shocked
Some school boards say the letter they received from the Minister was unexpected, and unsettling.
"Everybody agrees the process is very difficult," said Ambrose White, superintendent for Cape Breton-Victoria District School Board. "It's hard on the communities, it's hard on the board, it pits one against the other."
White said an improved process would be good, but the delay of another year until closures are finalized will affect their budget.
Boards across the province have spent a lot of time deciding on school reviews and closures, with varying degrees of success.
Jennifer Naugler, chair of the South Shore Regional School Board, said she was frustrated with the Minister’s announcement. She said her board and community spent hundreds of hours on the reviews in the last five months.
"We just made our decisions last week, and it was very emotional and tough," she said.
"We were legislated to make those decisions by March 31. We saw the process through to the end, so to have the Minister make that request two days after the deadline is a bit frustrating."
Naugler said the board needs clarification on exactly what the Minister's request means.
"We're not exactly clear on how this request affects us as a board and we are also seeking some legal advice around the request that's been made by the Minister."
Naugler said the school they plan they close in Gold River needs repairs to its roof that could cost $100,000. Closing the school was one way to save money in a budget that had already been cut by the provincial government.