- February 28, 2017
Benkunskas on the Lelewel School: There can be no question of the return to Antakalnis
Valdas Benkunskas, the Vice Mayor of Vilnius, claims that the ruling of the Supreme Administrative Court to cancel the local government decision to move the Joachim Lelewel School from Antakalnis to Žirmūnai will not have a major impact on the activity of the school. Currently, local government lawyers wait for clarification from the court and want the proceedings to be reopened.
“The school should not be concerned because it still operates legally. The decisions which were appealed and later cancelled by the court have no impact on the acticity of the school. Legal department requested the Supreme Administrative Court to make a clarification. It also asked for reopening the proceedings because some arguments in the judicial ruling are inconsistent with court practice” – said Valdas Benkunskas for zw.lt when setting out the position of the local government.
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. Some parents of the Polish school students 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.
Benkunaskas insists that accreditation process will be soon completed. Essentially, the Ministry of Education has completed the process and now “only formal approval of the council is needed.” “Perhaps this matter can be dealth with in the coming session. Of course, everything depends on the court proceedings. At present we can say that the school operates legally. The head teacher should be prepared to admit students for the next year” – added Benkunskas.
Currently, the local government waits for supplementary clarification of the court, but it does not consider the possibility of the return of the Polish school to Antakalnis. “Solutions such as moving the school are not taken into account. It has already settled in a new building and is about to adjust to a new place. It is worth adding that the school underwent accreditation process when it was transformed into długie gimnazjum school. And actually the accreditation process concerns the new building” – noted Benkunskas.
“It is hard to say. Now we wait for clarification because, as I said, the decision is inconsistent with court practice. Court practice does not include one school only. If it is going to turn out that decisions are unlawful, lawyers will seek solutions. I think that the council will have to approve the change of the school address once again. (…) There can be no question of the return because classes of the Antakalnis Progimanzjum School has settled in the building in Antakalnis, plans for September for the next school year are arleady made and it is hard to stop the process. We believe that the school [the Lelewel School – editorial note] has suitable conditions for operating in the new building” – added Vice Mayor.
History of the conflict
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 buidling in Antakalnis.
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 (in the branch of the Antoni Wiwulski School) there were 127 students, 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.