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Court to decide fate of Metsküla School as compromise talks headed nowhere

President Alar Karis visiting Metsküla School.
President Alar Karis visiting Metsküla School. Source: Juhan Hepner/ERR

Talks for a compromise between the Metsküla School and Lääneranna Municipality have not moved closer to an agreement despite continuing throughout this fall. Now, the next move needs to be decided by the Tallinn Administrative Court.

"There is no compromise. Proposals have been bounced back and forth, but the sides have not sat down together," parent Püü Polma told ERR.

"The court has been monitoring the correspondence and can eventually decide whether it finds progress toward a compromise is being made. While the court has not laid down a deadline, the judge has said that they will take matters into their own hands and plot a course for a ruling should no headway be made," Polma added.

She said that the kids continue going to school every day. The fact that the municipality has enrolled the students of the officially closed school in the nearby Lihula High School hasn't changed anything. "The same kids taught by the same teachers. We have not allowed ourselves to be bothered by this mess."

The parents of Metsküla School have stood firm even in the face of the local government's assessment that students going to a school that lacks an activity license will officially miss a year of school and will have to repeat the grade.

"Our parents remain calm and are convinced that their kids' education is in line with the national curriculum, which the teachers have said it is. There is no fear then of the kids having to repeat the year. All schools need to base relevant decisions on children's skills and knowledge, not what some piece of paper says," Polma remarked.

Asked why it is so difficult for the local government and the parents to sit down, Polma suggested that the municipality probably finds it hard to admit another solution would have been preferable.

Metsküla School parent Silvia Lotman said that they still want Metsküla to become a private school from next year and for the children to be able to attend school there this year. Lotman said that so far the municipality has offered the parents the building's right of superficies. "We told them that we have no interest in it, and that we just want a stable school."

Lääneranna Municipality Mayor Ingvar Saare said that the local government has made the decision of reorganizing the network of schools, and he sees no reason for the council to rethink that decision today.

"As Minister of Education Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200) has said that community schools should be retained, she also holds the keys in terms of their financing. A private school requires stable funding and a decision of who will be providing it –the relevant question is whether the ministry is willing to put up the money. There is little the local government can do here," he said.

Tallinn Administrative Court will likely announce a date by which the court will have to make a decision this week.

We hope that Judge Janek Laidvee will take up the Mestküla case this week and see what can be done, said Anneli Vilu, press representative for the court.

Judge Laidvee has previously told ERR that legal clarity is needed regarding de facto learning at Mesküla School that does not fit into the existing legal framework.

The Lääneranna Municipality Council on March 24 voted in favor of dialing back the network of local schools. Based on the decision, the Lõpe and Metsküla schools will be closed, grades 7-9 will be removed from Koonga and Varbla schools, and the Virtsu School will be turned into a four-grade elementary school. The local government's initial decision would also have seen the former closed for good.

Tallinn Administrative Court revoked the school's preliminary legal protection in June, meaning that the municipality's March decision of closing the school starting this fall remains in effect.

Parents and the school sued the municipality and the administrative court ordered a grace period in late September during which a compromise needed to be sought. The court has granted a single extension of the period.

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Editor: Mari Peegel, Marcus Turovski

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