Nova Scotia

Boards warn school closures may be a done deal

The Nova Scotia School Boards Association says it's probably too late to stop school closures, despite a request from the province's health minister.

Education Minister wants boards to suspend the process

Jamie Stevens says the two schools slated to close would need significant upgrades in order to stay open. (CBC)

The Nova Scotia School Boards Association says it’s probably too late to stop school closures.

Last week, the Minister of Education asked all boards in the province to stop all ongoing and upcoming school reviews. Ramona Jennex said the government was working on a new plan to replace the controversial review process.

Jamie Stevens, president of the Nova Scotia School Boards Association, said the minister's request has left them with more questions than answers.

"The question would be, why would we do it?" he asked. "Would we be putting these communities through this arduous process again, and just prolonging their agony?"

Stevens said the boards don’t even have a clear understanding if they’re allowed to stop the closures. He said they may be legally bound to keep the process going.

"The Education Act dictates that the decision of boards with this regard is final, so boards have questions about whether they have the leeway to reverse this or not."

Then there's the question of funding. The association said some school board budgets have already been drawn up and some staff are ready to move to other jobs. Stevens said it could be costly to keep the schools in question open at least another year.

"Some of these schools are in quite bad condition, and are in need of considerable repair."

Stevens said the minister's request is disheartening. After months of community consultation and emotional debates, he called the timing of the request questionable.

"Two days after the process finishes, we’re asked to put it on hold."

Minister waiting for reply

School boards have until April 30 to officially respond to the Minister's request. Some boards have indicated they will turn it down.

"I’m not going to speculate at this point because I’ve made the request and I want to hear back and hear what they have to say," said Jennex.

She said she's not ready to talk about back up plans if the boards go ahead with the closures.

"I have a couple of plans in my mind, of ways we can move forward. We need to have a better process in place, and it needs to be more collaborative and I think everyone will agree on that front."

Two schools are slated to close in near future. The South Shore Regional School Board voted to close Gold River, which would need a new roof. The Cignecto-Central Regional School Board plans to close Bass River Elementary in June.