Appeal filed in Whitbourne Elementary court challenge
School supporters argue against statutory authority of unelected trustees
The fight to keep Whitbourne Elementary open is going back to court.
Parents from the K-6 school are taking the case to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal, with St. John’s lawyer Daniel Simmons once again representing the plaintiffs.
Last summer, Supreme Court Justice Valerie Marshall quashed a previous decision by the board of trustees for the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District (NLESD) to close the school on grounds it failed to disclose information in a timely manner. She rejected an argument questioning the statutory authority of an unelected board consisting of government appointees.
With the appeal filed at the end of February, school supporters are going back to the statutory authority issue, hoping the Court of Appeal will find the school board trustees did not have the authority to close Whitbourne Elementary.
Less than two months after Justice Marshall’s ruling, the board voted again to close the school. That closure would be effective this June. The first NLESD election for school board trustees took place last November. Government appointed previous board members when NLESD was formed in the fall of 2013.
“We had hoped that the Board would respect the decision made by the Supreme Court on July 29, 2016,” Wade Smith, chair of the Help Whitbourne Elementary Committee, said in a news release issued last Tuesday. “However, rather than wait for school board elections on Nov. 22, 2016 the board decided to allow the same unelected trustees to continue with a flawed school review process which ended with a school closure vote on Sept. 20th. We are very disappointed that parents again have to look to the courts for help to save our school.”
Those looking to save the school hope any ruling on the board’s statutory authority to vote in favour of closing the school last April would equally apply to the decision made Sept. 20. This fall, students are set to start taking classes at Woodland Elementary in Dildo.
NLESD is required to file its response by March 30. According to the news release, a hearing date has not been set.
Another court battle is brewing over the future of Whitbourne Elementary.