Judicial review over Petite Riviere school set for September

by Michael Lee

  • <p>FILE PHOTO</p><p>A &#8220;Save Petite Elementary&#8221; sign seen at the LaHave Bakery on May 11 where NDP leader Gary Burrill announced his party would place a moratorium on school closures. A judge will hear arguments from the Greater Petite Area Community Association and South Shore Regional School Board in September as part of a judicial review launched by the association.</p>

A Petite Riviere community group will have its day in court this September with the South Shore Regional School Board.

Lawyers representing the school board and Greater Petite Area Community Association met in Halifax Supreme Court on May 16 to set a date for an upcoming judicial review launched by the association.

Both sides will file the necessary paperwork for the record in the coming months and meet on September 7 for an afternoon court hearing. A representative for the Attorney General of Nova Scotia was also present as an observer.

The association filed a notice for judicial review in April challenging the school board's decision to close Pentz, and more specifically Petite Riviere, elementary schools. The schools are slated to close by July 31, 2018, and the students will move to Hebbville Academy in the following school year.

The association says it is filing a judicial review on the grounds that the motion to close the schools, made originally back in 2013, is in breach of the Education Act.

It is also arguing that parents affected by the closure are owed a duty of fairness and that the board was "wrong" in determining it could not reconsider its decision, which ultimately prevented it from deciding whether to accept money for a renovation from the provincial government.

Court documents say the board determined it would close the schools once a replacement building was built. However, three requests for a new school have already been denied by the provincial government.

The minister of education has also said the government could provide money for a renovation upon cabinet approval.

The board has said it cannot reverse its decision because it must follow the laws in place at the time.

This will be the second time in less than a year that the board has been taken to court over a school review. A Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge ruled in favour of the school board in March over a judicial review filed by the Town of Bridgewater, which attempted to overturn a decision made to move the Grade 10-12 students from Bridgewater Jr./Sr. High School to Park View Education Centre.

The board paid upwards of $150,000 in legal fees, but was awarded costs. However, it is expecting to pay a similar amount in court against the Petite Riviere association.

The board recently had an appeal dismissed by the courts in which legal counsel tried to argue that allowing towns and municipalities to challenge board decisions could set a legal precedent.

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