Parents of Metsküla pupils oppose school's privatization as solution

Metsküla school, on being presented with the School of the Year award 2023.
Metsküla school, on being presented with the School of the Year award 2023. Source: Rait-Roland Veskemaa/ERR

Parents have joined the principal of a Lääne County school earmarked for closure in opposing privatization as a remedy to the problem, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported Thursday.

Ingvar Saare, mayor of the municipality in question, Lääneranna, in Lääne County, recently proposed transitioning the Metsküla elementary school into a private institution, taking advantage of an offered donation from a well-known businessman.

The school had 21 pupils enrolled last academic year and covers grades one to four (algkool).

However, the school's director, Pille Kaisel, said that as things stand, nothing amounting to a solution from her perspective and that of parents, staff and pupils, has been reached.

"The council decision came once again as a bit of a cold shower, since all obstacles on why this school could not be run as it is for one more year have been lifted," Kaisel told AK, adding a private school as not what was desired.

"Strong education does not necessarily have to come in the form of a private school. An ordinary village school could certainly remain part of our national education system," she went on.

In any case, were the Metsküla school to make the switch to operating on a private basis in the next academic year, a little over a month away, the required documentation would need to have been submitted earlier in the year.

Silvia Lotman, a parents' representative, said that: "We are fighting for our school, for the good education of our children.

"We do not see at all that a private school is the solution," she continued, adding: "Naturally, we expect a decision from the council which would mean this school will remain open," Lotman added.

Andres Hirvela, a Lääneranna municipal deputy, also voiced his opposition, saying the municipal government "Wants to kill two birds with one stone; they also want to terminate the legal process, so that the municipality does not have to pay court costs," adding that the matter would next be discussed at council level in August.

Mayor Saare acknowledged that the court case is a factor.

He said: "Since the Metsküla school situation is also connected to a court case, this requires a somewhat more precise agreement with the school community, as to how the council could decide on the continuation of the school.

"This €40,000 is a separate story," he added, referring to a donation by BigBank owner Parvel Pruunsild, a major donor to the Isamaa party.

"It is my belief and my hope that we will be able to discuss this issue with the school community here in the next week or two," Saare went on.

Thursday's Lääneranna council sitting – featuring deputies from the ruling coalition and from the opposition – was held on an extraordinary basis, primarily to debate the issue of solar panel parks. Isamaa deputy Raul Oberschneider also added the Metsküla topic to the agenda.

He did so, he told AK, due to the changed situation regarding funding support for the school – a state support measure for rural schools, in general, is being drafted at regional affairs and agriculture ministry-level, following the donation from Pruunsild.

"[The state support] will probably come into force from next year. These two developments provide an ideal opportunity to keep the Metsküla school running in our municipality next year," Oberschneider told AK, adding that while the details of the state measure are not known, the school will certainly qualify for it.

The Metsküla school was awarded the title of School of the Year early last month.

Another Lääne County school, at Lõpe, also faces closure, while three schools in Virtsu, Varbla and Koonga are being reduced in size and number of grades, according to plans.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera', reporter Ester Vilgats.

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