Friends of NDSS not giving up

By Penny Coles, Niagara Advance

The Friends of NDSS have lost their bid for an injunction against the closure of the town's only high school, but that decision, while a disappointment, is only the first step in the process for a judicial review.

And they are not giving up, says Friends member Teresa Rive.

In his ruling, Ontario Superior Court Justice Ferrier acknowledged a fair accommodation review was completed. The judge said the decision made by trustees to close Niagara District Secondary School was made "in an atmosphere of complete procedural fairness."

The school board, he said, "fulfilled its responsibilities to the community to the full."

He also said the closing of the school will "impact on virtually every aspect of the community. It will seriously affect the entire community."

Rive says they hold out hope for a successful resolution of a judicial review by focusing on the judge's assertion that the high school closure has a serious impact on virtually every aspect of the community.

"That reminds us what this judicial review is intended to address," says Rive, adding that his decision refers only to the injunction against the school closure.

"This was just part of the process," says Rive.

"It's disappointing but we respect his decision and will carry on with the review. Hopefully that will go our way."

Though the judge cited the delay in filing the request for an injunction, after the school had already been closed, as grounds alone for dismissing the motion, he also acknowledged that it was understandable, in light of the expense of the legal proceedings, that the application would be made only after all other avenues were exhausted.

The judge pointed to the fact that all students have been accommodated at other schools, bus routes organized, NDSS administrative and professional staff reassigned, renovations begun at other high schools, and equipment at NDSS re-allocated.

He disagreed on a key point the Friends put forward, that the final June, 2008 motion to close NDSS was in fact a motion to reconsider and shouldn't have been allowed.

"The record shows that the board was grappling for a solution to the problem it faced. The ultimate result was a compromise in what had been a continuing debate until it was ended by the resolution," he said.

However, if the review of the decision is successful, it won't be too late for steps to be taken for the return of students to NDSS, he said.

Although the Friends of NDSS would have preferred an injunction before the judicial review is completed, "we respect the decision of Justice Ferrier, but remain resolved to see this matter given the proper and full judicial review that is required."

The review will be heard before a panel of judges, and that too allows the Friends to hold out hope, says Rive.

The Friends say they will continue to exhaust every avenue to ensure the return of quality secondary education with a right-sized high school in NOTL.

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