They have hired a Toronto lawyer and filed an affidavit outlining "many unaccountable and unacceptable actions" by the DSBN going back a decade—actions which have led to the closure of Niagara on the Lake's only secondary school, said spokesperson Sandra Cowan.Cowan is quoted later in the article explaining that yes, while the school closed at the end of June, this request is to preserve the presence of a high school in NOTL for future students.
It was an unwillingness to communicate, on the part of the school board and the ministry, that led to the launching of a legal battle, said Cowan.
None of the information in the affidavit filed with the request for a review is new, she said—it was all in the brief the town compiled and sent to the Minister of Education.
"Some of it deals with points of order and the procedures of voting—the points trustee Gary Atamanyk has been making. Also it brings attention to some of the actions of the school board over the last 10 years and the indications that the closure of NDSS had been predetermined before the last accommodation review took place."
I struggle to understand this decision. Though it's been a while since I did so, I spent some time reviewing the decisions of the divisional court on school closures that are available online (not all are published online). I read the decisions regarding Arthur District High School / Upper Grand DSB (court did not overturn closure); Lynden Public School / Hamilton-Wentworth DSB (court did not overturn closure); and Seaforth-area schools / Avon Maitland DSB (request for interim relief from closure not granted). Within each of these decisions there are several other cases cited but not online where boards made decisions where the court ruled either no public input of any kind took place, or that a decision was made in secret outside the public eye.
I am also aware of a local case in my coverage area, not posted online, where the community took the Thames Valley District School Board to the divisional court over its decision to close two schools in Woodstock. The court sided with the board, providing a former executive superintendent of operations the motivation to continually remind anyone who cared to listen (until the Gerard Kennedy requested school-closure moratorium) that the board's accommodation review process was "court-tested."
The current first line of appeal, such as it is, is for the appointment of an administrative review of a board's decision (which was announced for NDSS in October 2008 and completed in February 2009). These reviews, as flawed as some say they are, concentrate on whether or not the school board was compliant with the provincial guidelines (in NDSS' case, the original 2006 ones) and its own locally developed pupil accommodation policy.
I would think asking the court to review this element would be a moot point, since Joan Green already determined that to be the case. If the intent is to get the court to rule on the rat's nest of motions, amendments, etc. from the June 2008 meeting where the decision was made to grant NDSS until Oct. 31, 2009 to reach 350 bodies, that might be a different case. Care needs to be taken with explaining this to the community-- it's a judicial review of what's been done, not necessarily an opportunity to present evidence not heard in the past, or to take another stab at arguing the merits of the DSBN's decision. The decision in the Seaforth review (and in milder language in the others) is quite clear it's not the court's intent to rule on the merits of keeping the school open or letting it close. The court's role is to review whether there was an abuse of process.
I have serious doubts the community will succeed in this measure (though, no worries, I will eat crow in this space if that's the case).
Meanwhile, as the article mentions, NDSS' current students have made their choices for the fall. They'll be at those schools starting in September.