School Closures Meeting, Oct. 24, 2006: Minutes

Public meeting held at Gorsebrook JHS library, parents and community members from St Mary’s, LMST, and Inglis school areas were invited

Lynn MacGregor, Halifax Regional School Board Member for District 9
Chris Soder, parent involved with the Save Ecole Beaufort committee

Leonard Preyra, MLA for Halifax Citadel

The Department of Education’s (DOE) School Closure Process Review Committee is reviewing the mandated procedures for closing schools to determine whether or not they meet the needs of students, the education system and local communities.

This community meeting was organized because the issue is particularly relevant for residents of peninsular Halifax because the Halifax Regional School Board (HRSB) is recommending that a new, consolidated elementary school (with a proposed population of 700 students) be constructed on the Halifax peninsula. Under this recommendation, St. Mary’s School, Inglis Street School, LeMarchant-St. Thomas School and the Beaufort School Annex would all be closed in 2009.

Key issues discussed:
The HRSB’s Capital Construction Report (2005-2006) outlines a shift away from a community school to a ‘superschool’ model of education delivery. This will have widespread effects on communities in Halifax
-Halifax Regional School Board Revised Capital Construction Report
-this shift/report happened without public consultation
-senior school board staff submitted the report to the DOE before presenting it to elected board members to approve

School closure planning needs to be treated as more than just an education issue
-requires broad-based consultation with community groups and urban planners in addition to students, parents, and educators
-school closure and school construction goes beyond students’ education, classroom and school yard experience; these decisions have an impact on neighbourhood transportation, students’ health, the availability of community meeting-places, and community/neighbour relations
-school closure needs to be linked to new school construction
-HRSB plans for school closure/construction need to be linked to HRM growth projections and urban planning strategies

Reforms need to be made to the Education Act and to address accountability of HRSB and DOE
-DOE and HRSB both claim the other is responsible for contentious issues like school closures
-the section on school closures is the only part of the Education Act where the school board has authority, not the DOE
-the DOE needs to enforce the Education Act regarding criteria for school closures
-Senior school board staff can make decisions without meaningful or timely consultation with elected board or public

There is a lack of public awareness of the role and mandate of the school board
-low voter turnout to school board elections
-members elected by acclamation
-members inadequately compensated for their work
-the HRSB is a dysfunctional organization and needs to be reformed

The public needs to lobby elected representatives at school board, municipal, and provincial levels to hold decision-makers accountable
-given that the DOE has ultimate responsibility for schools and education in the province, focus should be on lobbying the Minister and provincial representatives for change
-officials need to know that, contrary to the Department’s assumptions, not everyone wants new schools
-there are cases where lobbying and community mobilization have been successful

Next steps…

Meeting participants are urged to make a written submission to the Department of Education Review Committee before October 31st
-A Review of the School Closure Process in Nova Scotia Discussion Paper (Department of Education)

-School Closure Process Review Response Form (Department of Education)
(Also available in electronic form for online submission here: . Please note that the electronic form is a word document that must be saved with your additions and then sent as an attachment to ***This form is due by October 31st***

Meeting organizers will distribute contact information for Halifax Regional School Board and Department of Education staff and elected members.

A website and email list will be launched to facilitate ongoing discussion and organizing against school closures.

Further reading:
-Public School Program (Department of Education)

-More background information on school closures can be found at under Issues – School Closures