Saskatchewan

'This was my failure as the minister': Sask. government reverses cut to Cornwall Alternative School

The provincial government says it will restore funding to a Regina alternative school that was the victim of a provincial budget cut. 

Gord Wyant met with parents, school advocates yesterday

Education Minister Gordon Wyant said the government has reversed a planned budget cut at Cornwall Alternative School, which advocates argued would be the end of the school. (Matt Howard/CBC)

The provincial government says it will restore funding to a Regina alternative school that was the victim of a provincial budget cut.

Cornwall Alternative School found out earlier this month it was to lose more than $700,000 in provincial funding.

On Wednesday during question period, Education Minister Gord Wyant indicated that cut will not happen after all.

The announcement means the school will be funded until at least the end of March 2020.

Wyant took responsibility for the initial decision to cut the school's funding.

"I have a great management team, a great leadership team at the Ministry of Education and I rely on them every day to give me the proper advice. I think this was my failure as the minister. It is my responsibility," Wyant said.

Advocates from the school, including alumni, met with Wyant Tuesday afternoon. He said the meeting helped him better understand the impact of the school.

"Sometimes putting a human face to some of these things can change your mind or at least can lead you in a different direction," Wyant said.

Change of heart took 'intestinal fortitude'

Cornwall school board chairman David Halvorsen said the school would have had to close if the minister had not reversed the decision. 

He said the change of heart was "absolutely wonderful" news. 

"It's impossible to say exactly what tipped it all over but it takes a lot of intestinal fortitude to do what Mr. Wyant did and I'm very grateful for that and to the rest of his cabinet colleagues," said Halvorsen.

The smaller school has 40 students, four classrooms, four teachers, a principal, two counsellors, an outreach worker and a cook who is also a teacher. 

Halvorsen said it helps students who need more support until they can get back into the regular school system.

Earlier this week, Wyant said the regular school system would be able to serve the students who had been attending the alternative school.

The move caused a public outcry and led to rallies in Regina.

A rally was held at Cornwall Alternative School on Monday. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

The government had promised the Catholic and public school boards the money that would have gone to Cornwall in exchange for accepting and meeting the needs of Cornwall's students.

The $761,000 grant the school will now receive expires on March 31, 2020. Wyant said a review of the school and its programming will be done "as quickly as possible" to ensure certainty for students and staff.

Wyant said he plans on meeting with the Cornwall board and will tour the school soon. He said he would also like to meet with the two school divisions.

Supporters for Cornwall Alternative School came out to a rally on Monday. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

NDP education critic Carla Beck said Wyant received "poor or inadequate advice" from the ministry. 

"In the end, this is the Minister of Education who's the deputy premier. This decision rests with him. And I'm glad that he made the right decision today."

Beck said Wyant needs to make decisions after collaborating with students, teachers and boards.

"All of the conversations in the world don't help if that information doesn't make its way into the decision at the decision making tables," Beck said.

With files from CBC Radio's Afternoon Edition

With files from Adam Hunter

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