2017-11-15

Petite Riviere still awaiting decision from Supreme Court

by Brittany Wentzell

  • <p>FILE PHOTO</p><p>A decision has yet to be made in the judicial review between the Greater Petite Area Community Association and the South Shore Regional School Board but hopes are high for the association and their bid to keep the little school open.</p>

It's now been over two months since the Greater Petite Area Community Association (GPACA) had a hearing in Supreme Court, but those invested in the Petitie Riviere Elementary's future are still hopeful of a positive result.

Stacey Godsoe, the association's chair, says it was estimated Justice Christa Brothers would come back with a decision on the judicial review anywhere between two and eight weeks, but that they could wait up to six months for a decision.

"She could take that long, but I don't think that's common-place so it could be any date, but we don't know," said Godsoe.

The GPACA is challenging a school board motion from March, which set July 31, 2018, as the official date to close Petite school, arguing the decision was made without following the school review process. The groups last met in court on September 7.

Since then, Godsoe and the association officially handed a petition, asking the school board to rescind their 2013 motion and "conduct a fair school review process for Petite Riviere Elementary School," to the provincial government. The petition was signed by 1,500 people and given to Justice Minister and MLA for Lunenburg West, Mark Furey in Province House on October 25.

In a recent press release, Godsoe said Furey moved resolution, which was passed unanimously by parties and without debate.

"It was great because there was no kind of obstruction by any of the two opposition parties. There was no debate or argument, it just unanimously passed and we were very pleased," said Godsoe.

Zach Churchill, Education Minister for the province, who was visiting the South Shore recently, didn't weigh in on the issue, only saying the government is patiently awaiting the decision of the judge.

"I think the school board and the department anxiously await what that decision is and I think that will inform I think how everybody moves forward," he said.

"We're committed to ensuring every community has the best learning facility possible and the school boards under the current process have the unenviable job of deciding which schools close and that's tough on communities and I know it's tough for them to make those decisions and we need to work with them to make sure that the facilities we have in place in communities are meeting the needs of those communities."

For now, Godsoe says her group is having discussions with stakeholders on how to proceed should the result not land in favour of keeping the village school open, though she couldn't elaborate on details.

"We're exploring contingency plans and making sure the provincial government, the Department of Education, are very aware of our situation, the history, the complexity of the problem so that if the judicial review doesn't work out that they could still potentially intervene," she said.

"We're very much still in the exploration stage of the next stage in our campaign and we're still hopeful the judicial review will work in our favour."

She says the group is remaining positive and feels good about what occurred in the legislature as well as the support they've received from the broader community and even their own lawyer - Brian Casey who put in some hours for the association free of charge.

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