Board votes to close St. Patrick’s-Alexandra | Herald |

Board votes to close St. Patrick’s -Alexandra

The Halifax regional school board voted 5-3 Tuesday to close St. Patrick’s-Alexandra School after a review and public meetings on the fate of the peninsular site.

Members had debated closing the Maitland Street school by September of this year but decided to have a separate vote on the date of the closure, a move that ultimately gave the school some breathing room.

In a separate decision, the school board voted 8-0 to keep Saint Mary’s School open.

St. Patrick’s-Alexandra serves pupils in grades Primary to 9. At its meeting Tuesday, the school board initially talked about keeping the school open but that proposal died on the floor.

Then the board debated closing the school this year, and finally discussed delaying the shutdown until 2011. The vote to close the school in 2011 was tied, and board chairman Irvine Carvery broke the deadlock, opting for the later closure.

Board members said they appreciate how important the school is to many families in the community, but the meeting also heard that lots of parents over the years have sent their children to schools out of the district.

St. Patrick’s-Alexandra not only had a declining enrolment to deal with, but “an image problem” as an undesirable school to attend, board members said.

An audience of parents, students and teachers heard that a new school is planned to replace St. Pat’s-Alexandra, but principal Ken Fells wasn’t optimistic it’ll be built any time soon. He told reporters he’s worried about his students having to adjust to new schools.

“None of the (board) members that talked up there talked about transition time, and what the transition’s going to be like for our children to go to other schools,” Mr. Fells said. “It’s going to be very hard.”

Saint Mary’s, situated on Morris Street, serves students in grades Primary to 6. Board members said the school has much to offer pupils and parents, but a couple of them worried about potential fire hazards inside the building.

According to the Halifax board’s website, Saint Mary’s was built in 1950 and had 110 students in 2008. St. Patrick’s-Alexandra was built in 1971 and had 80 students registered last year, the website says.

Howard Windsor, the retired civil servant who was a one-man school board for almost two years at the request of former education minister Karen Casey, had ruled that both Halifax schools and Alderney School, a Dartmouth elementary, needed to be reviewed for closure.

His decision was a response to the first phase of Imagine Our Schools, a long-term master plan for facilities prepared by Toronto consultants.

The only way to appeal a school closing will be through the courts, Mr. Carvery said this week. Any appeal will have to be based on how board members carried out the process, he said.

Alderney School’s fate will be decided tonight.

( mlightstone@herald.ca)

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