03/27/2017 16:00 EDT | Updated 03/28/2018 01:12 EDT

School review decisions to be made on Monday

The Board of Directors of the Public Schools Branch will make their decisions about the school review process Monday — following public meetings and a 60-day consultation period. 

The school review process included 31 recommendations from Bob Andrews, school reorganization project manager, to look for solutions for overcrowded and under-utilized schools.

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The public had 60 days to respond to those recommendations, which included closing five under-utilized schools.

According to a news release, the Public Schools Branch said during those 60 days, there were 511 online and 356 written submissions, as well as nearly 100 presentations made to the board.

Schools fighting to stay open

There were also recommendations that dealt with rezoning or changes like adding French immersion, but the possibility of closures united many communities on the Island to fight for their schools.

Mallory Peters is the president of the Georgetown Elementary Home and School Association. She said she's glad to have a date for the decision, but she is still worried.

"It is nice to have a date in mind but it definitely is nerve-wracking because it is the next step as to whether we did do a strong enough effort to pitch as to why all rural schools should remain open."

"It definitely kicked the nerves into high gear quite a bit."

School closures go to cabinet

The board of directors is able to make final decisions on rezoning or which grades will be in which schools, but if they recommend schools to close, those closures would have to be approved by cabinet.

According to the school change policy the board will "make its final decision regarding whether to request the approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council to permanently close a school no later than June 30 of the school year immediately preceding the school year in which the school change will take place."

Peters said the unknown is frustrating.

"Our kids could be home on summer vacation and not know that they don't have that school to go back to in the fall."

'My stomach instantly went in knots'

Janna-Lynne Durant is the president of the St. Jean Home and School Association, which is the only school up for closure that isn't in a rural area.

Durant said she didn't expect the decision to happen so soon.

"I'm nervous, my stomach just instantly went into knots."

"I'm happy that we're going to find out, and we can prepare our children for whichever way it goes, but in the other sense I wish it had taken longer," Durant said. "They could have taken more time to review everything and go over everything and make sure they're making the right decision."

Pins and needles

Katie MacLennan, president of the Bloomfield Home and School Association wasn't surprised by the announcement of the upcoming decision.

"It's kind of good to know what's going on because whatever changes need to be made, well they need to be implemented sooner than later so in the long run it's going to help all the students and parents and teachers and staff."

MacLennan said she has been on pins and needles since the review started, 

"This has been a long winter, so it's just one more step that we have to do."

'Anxious to know a decision'

Marcella Ryan, the president of the Belfast Consolidated Home and School Association said she's relieved to have a date, but that anxiety comes with it.

"Of course there's so much information for them to digest, so you wonder how they're able to do that in a short period of time. So that certainly gives us pause, knowing that the decision is coming down so quickly."

Heidi Chaisson is a member of the St. Louis Home and School Association. She said they are feeling optimistic that they made the board and government aware that they didn't want any schools to close.

Chaisson said they have always thought the process was too rushed.

"We're anxious to know a decision, we're hopeful that our schools are going to stay open. At the same time if they do decide to close our schools, we think that it's really an unrealistic timeline to implement that by September. Just not fair to our educators or our children."

The three-member board will make their decisions on April 31 at 7:30 p.m. at Bluefield High School.

There will be a press conference on March 29 at 7 p.m. at Kinkora Place for the impacted schools to show a united front.

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