PEI

Mayor of Georgetown stepping aside from amalgamation efforts, turning focus to saving schools

Georgetown mayor Lewis Lavandier says he’s stepping aside from efforts to amalgamate seven municipalities in eastern P.E.I. to focus on trying to save Georgetown School from closure.

'It's gonna have an adverse effect on this town, I'll tell you that'

Georgetown is one of five schools the Public School Branch has recommended for closure. (Lindsay Carroll/CBC)

Georgetown mayor Lewis Lavandier says he's stepping aside from efforts to amalgamate seven municipalities in eastern P.E.I. to focus on trying to save Georgetown School from closure.

Georgetown is one of five Island schools recommended for closure by the Public Schools Branch.

"I'm going to try to put all my energy into that, and work with my council and my residents to try to focus and help with the fight to try to keep all of the rural schools that were slated to close, opened," Lavandier said.

Lavandier has been serving as chair of the Three Rivers steering committee, which for the past two years has been working through the sometimes difficult process of trying to get seven communities in eastern P.E.I. to agree on a plan to amalgamate.

Georgetown Mayor Lewis Lavandier said he's stepping aside from efforts to amalgamate with neighbouring communities in order to focus on trying to save the town's school. (CBC)

He said he couldn't comment as to whether Georgetown might continue to participate in the process, and said "time will tell" if this would be a setback to that effort.

Seeking support from surrounding communities

He did say Georgetown has written to the other six communities within Three Rivers to seek their support in the fight to keep its school.

"I would hope that I can get the support from the other communities, that they feel that we are doing the right thing by having an issue with the way that things are shaping up for rural P.E.I."

Lavandier said he has yet to hear back from the other communities regarding his request for their support.

Premier won't meet with town just yet

Lavandier said he requested a meeting with Premier Wade MacLauchlan this week, but was turned down.

"When you take a school from a community it takes the heart out of the community," he said. "It's very difficult to get new business, to get new families moving in. It really, really sets a community back.

When you take a school from a community it takes the heart out of the community.- Georgetown Mayor Lewis Lavandier

"When we're talking about moving communities forward and revitalizing communities, this certainly is making it very difficult. It's gonna have an adverse effect on this town, I'll tell you that."

A spokesperson for the premier confirmed the request for a meeting was turned down, saying the town should take its concerns to the Public Schools Branch board of directors.

Presentation 'fell on deaf ears'

"It's important that the board process unfolds and that Islanders take the opportunity to participate in the process and share their ideas with the directors," said an email from the premier's office.

"The premier has a great deal of respect for the mayor and would welcome him to reach out after the board has completed its process."

Lavandier said the town made its case several times to the Public Schools Branch, including before the branch made the recommendation to close Georgetown School.

Based on that recommendation, he concluded "it seemed to fall on deaf ears."

What happened to Liberal election platform?

Lavandier says there's one more thing he'd like to ask the premier, regarding a line in the 2015 Liberal election education platform which read: "No plans to close small schools."

No plans to close small schools.- Liberal 2015 education platform

"Why [have] things changed now? I would like to have that explained to our residents and other communities on why this has changed … and it's possibly okay now for that to happen."

About the Author

Kerry Campbell

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Kerry Campbell is the provincial affairs reporter for CBC P.E.I., covering politics and the provincial legislature. kerry.campbell@cbc.ca