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Court gives up compromise bid, to issue Metsküla school decision next month

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

Attempts to reach a compromise in the court case between Metsküla Elementary School and Lääneranna Municipality haven't yielded any results, due to which Tallinn Administrative Court will itself issue a decision on the matter in late February.

The first-tier court on Wednesday set the date for issuing its decision in the Metsküla school case for Tuesday, February 20.

The court noted in its order that despite repeated efforts, the parties to the proceedings have failed to reach an agreement.

"Reaching an agreement requires finding common ground on fundamental issues to which the parties to the dispute would agree," explained Tallinn Administrative Court Judge Janek Laidvee. "Several attempts have failed to yield results, and the court doesn't consider the continuing of negotiations this way to be a viable option. Thus, the court set the final deadlines for the lodging of procedural documents as well as the date for issuing a decision."

Most recently, the administrative court had offered parties to the Metsküla case the opportunity to put forward specific proposals on how to proceed with the dispute. It also underscored at the time that if no agreement is reached, then at some point that needs to be recognized and they have to proceed with the process. The court set the deadline for submitting proposals for December 7, by which time it also received them.

The court has previously publicly stated that underlying the proposal to seek a compromise was the rational understanding that the money being spent on litigation could be better spent on children's education – be that on the establishment of Metsküla Private School or by contributing to the construction of a new building for Lihula High School. Especially, it noted, in a situation where the complainants have decided to go the private school route, and a final court ruling would only serve to clarify whether the responsible party had the right to close down Metsküla as a municipal school or not.

Lääneranna Municipal Council decided at its March 24, 2023 sitting to make cuts to its local school network. Pursuant to this decision, the municipality is closing Lõpe School and Metsküla Elementary School, cutting grades 7-9 from Koonga School and Varbla School and converting Virtsu School, which was initially likewise slated to be closed down altogether, into a four-grade elementary school starting this fall.

The Metsküla Elementary School community took the local government's decision to shut them down to court, and at the end of September, Tallinn Administrative Court gave the parties to the dispute time to reach a compromise on the matter. The first-tier court thereafter repeatedly gave them extensions for coming up with a deal.

While officially closed, the Metsküla school has continued to operate de facto throughout the 2023-2024 school year on the support of private donors.

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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