Town fails in bid to nix Bridgewater high school move

Town fails in bid to nix Bridgewater high school move

A Nova Scotia judge has upheld a controversial decision that will see many Bridgewater high school students attend a different school this fall, a move that had been opposed by the local town council.

Bridgewater's previous council sought the judicial review to look at the fairness of the South Shore Regional School Board's decision last year to move Grade 10 to 12 students from Bridgewater Junior-Senior High School to Park View Education Centre, less than four kilometres away.

Council was concerned the change will lead to the de facto closure of Bridgewater Junior-Senior High School, and the mayor said Wednesday he had hoped a judicial review would overturn the decision.

"We were disappointed, but we respect the judge's decision," said Mayor David Mitchell. 

Board's decision process 'fair'

The school board's main arguments to support the shift focused on increased program offerings for students and cost savings for the board. 

In a ruling released this week, Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Mona Lynch concluded the school board "did not breach the duty of fairness owed to the town or the citizens of the town" and that its decision was made "in a fair and transparent process."

Lynch also concluded that because the minister of education had given boards the power to decide whether to close schools, the court "cannot substitute its decision for that of the school board."

Time to move forward

Mitchell said Bridgewater's current council will not appeal the judge's decision.

"It's time to give some closure to our students and our parents," he said.

School board chair Elliott Payzant said the move makes sense because Park View Education Centre is undergoing renovations and will have room for more students. 

He also pointed out that Bridgewater Elementary School, next door to the junior-senior high, is crowded and could use the space freed up when the Grade 10 to 12 students move to Park View. 

The school board has a transition team in place. It started meeting while the judicial review was underway.