Wade MacLauchlan says 'learner-centred approach' guided province's decision to keep schools open

After a lengthy and tumultuous review process, trustees decided that St. Jean and Georgetown Elementary schools should be shut down, but Premier Wade MacLauchlan announced that the government wouldn't be following that recommendation.

Premier called school review process an 'intensive exercise'

MacLauchlan says he respects the job trustees did with the difficult task of the school review. (CBC)

After a lengthy and tumultuous review process involving 31 recommendations by the Public Schools Branch, five of which were school closures, trustees decided that St. Jean and Georgetown Elementary schools should be shut down. 

Wade MacLauchlan announced that the government wouldn't be following their recommendations in a press conference Tuesday morning.

MacLauchlan was positive about the future of education on the Island when he spoke with Bruce Rainnie on CBC News: Compass on Tuesday.

Here's some of what he had to say.

How did we come to this conclusion?

It's been an intensive exercise for the past 60 days and indeed through the fall leading up to this. Communities got engaged, people worked together, there's been a strong sense of valuing education, putting it to the fore. And I think that's where we are today and from our perspective, as a government, an opportunity to move forward with those commitments with that valuing of education and with what's been learned through the process.

What happened between last night's announcement and this morning's decision to keep the schools open?

We've been following the process all along, that's to say cabinet and colleagues, so you're watching this unfold. By the time you get into the first part of April it's highly desirable, given the coming school year and given the amount of anticipation, and you know, anxiety, engagement that's involved in this process, that cabinet not wait too long to come to a resolution of where it stands on the two recommendations for closure.  Those are the pieces that come to cabinet.

After not accepting their recommendations what do you say to the  trustees?

I respect the effort they've put into this, and the sense of public service with which they took on the task, engaged in what indeed has been at times a testy process and came through to last night's recommendations, which I thought they handled and brought that whole process to a principled conclusion. So I did contact each of the trustees this morning to let them know once cabinet had decided. 

Why did you choose not to attend the meetings throughout the review process?

My advice, the advice to me, was that this was not the proper place for the premier who sits at the head of the table in cabinet and is to receive the recommendations, to be there in the middle of the process when the trustees are doing their work.

Pundits have said you wouldn't win the next election if you closed five schools. How much of this decision was political?

Well I'll tell you, if you went by the pundits you wouldn't make day-by-day decisions. You really have to take the evidence, take the situation, take your responsibilities and indeed our responsibilities here were about the communities, about the schools and notably about the learners. And that's what we said from the time we set off on this path to build up and focus on our education system, was that it would be a learner-centred approach.

Do you owe anything to people who were worried or concerned?

I owe them to work together with them, to move forward, to value and put our resources into education. One of the things we announced this morning was to have greater approach or greater effort, a team approach on student support which is one of the issues that came out in this.

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With files from CBC News: Compass