• February 22, 2017
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Benkunskas on the court’s decision on the Lelewel School: We are waiting for opinions of lawyers

On Monday (20 February) the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania overruled the Vilnius City Council’s decision of July 2015 to move the Joachim Lelewel High School from Antakalnis to the buliding at the Minties Street. The local government refrains from commenting on the issue and waits for opinions of lawyers.

“For now I cannot say anything because we are waiting for opinions of lawyers. We do not fully understand the ruling because it includes quite interesting arguments. The problem is legal rather than political in nature. That is why we have to wait for opinions of lawyers” – said Valdas Benkunskas, Vice Mayor of Vilnius who supervises education system in the capital.

In July 2015 the council decided to transform the Joachim Lelewel High School in Vilnius into the Joachim Lelewel School in Vilnius by way of closing the branch of the school located at the 3 Minties Street. Parents appealed this decision to the court. On the basis of that decision school was to be moved from Antakalnis to the building at the Minties Street. The school head teacher was obliged to hand the building at the 33 Antakalnio Street to the local government and to inform each student about school reorganization and change of its address and name within a month. The head teacher was also responsible for continuity of the teaching process.

All these points were cancelled by an order of the Supreme Administrative Court.

This Wednesday during the session of the Vilnius City Council there is a vote on transforming the Lelewel School from a high school into a junior high school. The name of the school is to be changed and a new budget institution will be registered. However, the project was not allowed for further deliberation.

The school started to operate in a renovated building in Žirmūnai (where a branch of the Antoni Wiwulski School had been located) in October 2016, that is a month later than it was announced by the local government.  The local government invested 2.3 mln euro in the renovation. A part of school community stated that they would not accept this situation and would seek to return to the previous buidling in Antakalnis. However, representatives of city authorities claimed that the decision of the local government is irrevocable.

In 2016 there were 328 students of Joachim Lelewel High School in the school building in Antakalnis (the building is destined for 800 students). At the Minties Street, there were 127 students of the branch of the Antoni Wiwulski School, whereas the building was designed to house 452 students.

Meanwhile, a part of Lithuanian Progimnazjum School in Antakalnis was assigned to the building of the Junior High School in Antakalnis, which is destined for 800 students, and its another part – to the building of the Lelewel school. According to representatives of the Progimnazjum School in Antakalnis, in that way it was proved that “all are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

According to some representatives of the Joachim Lelewel School, the decision taken by the local government was a deliberate act to destroy Polish education in Antakalnis. “The decision of city authorities (coalition of liberals and conservatives) to move the Lelewel School from Antakalnis to Žirmūnai was outrageous and inconsistent with one of the fundamental assumptions of educational reform – optimization of schools distribution. These actions are unlawful and outrageous for Polish and Russian communities living in this large Vilnius neighbourhood, Antakalnis” – reads the statement written in October and signed by: Krystyna Adamowicz, graduates’ association “Always faithful to the Five” (“Zawsze wierni Piątce”), Renata Cytacka, Starost of the EAPL-CFA in the Local Government of the Vilnius City, Danuta Narbut, Chairwoman of the Forum of Parents of Polish Schools in Vilnius, and Beata Bartoszewicz, the Chairwoman of the School Defence Committee.

Translated by Grzegorz Gaura within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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