Daily News Editorial – Welcome changes in school closings

“Other than Sunday shopping, few issues in Nova Scotia trigger as much emotion as the closing of a school. Tempers flare, public meetings are packed and when a beloved institution of learning is forced to close its doors, it can be like losing a member of the family.

Probably the most traumatic school closing in recent history was the shutdown of Northbrook Elementary School in Dartmouth. Outraged parents took the case to court, scoring an initial victory when a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge ruled that the school should stay open because a Halifax Regional School Board member who voted to close the school hadn’t attended public meetings on the matter.

That triumph was short-lived, as the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal overturned the lower court’s ruling, and the school closed. The parents then tried to take the case to the Supreme Court of Canada. But the high court did not grant the parents leave to appeal, and the closing stood.

Bitterness lingered. Clearly, the way schools are closed needs to change. Last year, the Education Department froze the reviews of 10 schools.

Yesterday, the Education Department tabled changes in school-closing policies that could make the exercise less painful to school boards, parents and students alike.

Central to the proposed legislation is an extension of the review period for a school under consideration for closing to one year from the current four months.

A year’s grace would allow school boards to clarify their reasons for recommending closing a school, and to outline provisions to be made for displaced students. In turn, parents would have more time to decide whether to accept or dispute the decision.

In a show of tri-partisanship, both opposition parties agreed with the Conservatives’ proposal. Even if an election is called before the bill can become law, the new review process should remain a priority.

No one wants to see another Northbrook.”

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