'This is the way he operates': Opposition questions wait for school decision

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Spring sitting of P.E.I. legislature closes

P.E.I.'s Opposition Progressive Conservatives are questioning why a six-month consultation process ended Tuesday morning with a cabinet decision to reject a Public Schools Branch recommendation to close two schools.

At a public meeting Monday night, the Public Schools Branch board of directors recommended closing St. Jean Elementary in Charlottetown and Georgetown Elementary in Kings County. Premier Wade MacLauchlan, in a news conference with Education Minister Doug Currie, rejected that recommendation late Tuesday morning.

"We didn't want to see any schools closed," said education critic Steven Myers.

"We were pleased at that, but at the same time if the decision always rested with Wade MacLauchlan I'm not sure why he put parents and communities through all this over the last six months."

But while Myers questioned the process, he said he recognized a pattern in MacLauchlan's policy making.

"He waited for a court decision to make a decision on abortion, he waited for a pending court decision to offer proper disability supports that came last week. He waited until after the vote on the plebiscite to decide to put an arrow through it," said Myers.

"This is the way he operates. He takes things right to the line and runs in the opposite direction when he gets there."

Small schools valuable for students and communities

Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker said he was "pleasantly surprised" to hear the province's decision not to close any schools.

Bevan-Baker said he's repeatedly raised the value of small schools, not only for students but also to help keep communities vibrant.

He is not concerned that these schools need upgrades or that they have a small number of students.

"That doesn't have to be wasted space. That could be utilized in all kinds of creative ways: to bring the community into the school, to set up businesses, to find inter-generational opportunities with seniors," he said.

"Underutilization absolutely is a fact, but that can be remedied with imaginative, creative policies."

Bevan-Baker is also encouraging government to consult with communities before coming up with changes to schools.

He said any suggestion to close a school should have to come from the community itself first.

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