The network of schools in the Trakai district has looked strange for many years. Of the 16 schools operating in the district, even 11 have the status of a gymnasium, many of which no longer have full classes.
In some schools, classes consisted of only 4-5 students, and the results of state exams did not improve. The education network of the Trakai district was not only ineffective, but also expensive – more than half a million euros are allocated annually from the municipal budget to maintain it.
The municipality did not even have an approved transformation plan for the general education school network for the years 2021-2024, which is why it could not apply to participate in the first stage of the “Millennium Schools” program funded by the European Union and receive funding for investments in educational institutions.
The Government encouraged municipalities to carry out the transformation of schools. According to her plan, small schools had to become larger units, there were no longer joint classes for older children, no more than two elementary school classes could be combined together.
Before making decisions sensitive to school communities, the municipal leaders not only discussed with representatives of the Ministry of Education, Science and Sports, applied to the Association of Lithuanian Municipalities for additional reservations taking into account the specifics of the multicultural district, but also met with the communities of the schools for which the changes are most relevant.
Sh. m. in February-March, the municipality initiated meetings with Andrzej Stelmachovskis Primary School of Old Trakai (Polish language of instruction), Kęstutis Primary School of Old Trakai (Lithuanian language of instruction), Paluknii “Medeinas” Gymnasium (Lithuanian language of instruction), Paluknii Longinas Komolovskis Gymnasium (Polish language of instruction ) and communities of Onuškis Donatas Malinauskas Gymnasium (Lithuanian language of instruction).
The municipality presented the vision and invited communities of educational institutions to submit real proposals in accordance with the rules of network creation adopted by the Government of the Republic of Lithuania.
When no proposals were received, the municipality, in accordance with its competence and in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Culture of the Republic of Lithuania, prepared the most optimal, prospective general plan for the transformation of the general education school network of the Trakai district municipality for the year 2022-2026, which this m. March 31 approved by the municipal council. The decision was appealed to the court and is currently on hold.
What network solutions did the municipality offer?
According to the municipal plan, which meets the interests of different communities as much as possible, some gymnasiums would become pro-gymnasiums, basic schools or sections of gymnasiums. Younger students would not feel the administrative change, while older students would be conveniently transported to schools that have retained the status of gymnasium.
Institutions with the least number of students would become departments of other high schools. The Andrzej Stelmachowskis Primary School of Old Trakai and the Paluknis Longinas Komolowskis Grammar School would be connected to the larger Polish high schools. This would not only reduce costs, but also, with an increase in the number of students, would help strengthen and maintain larger gymnasiums with the Polish language of instruction and cultural identity in the future.
It is understandable that every transformation is met with resistance and that in Trakai they don’t want to give up the model that is no longer working, but school leaders and educators did not want to recognize the need for changes due to poor results and a small number of students. The process of managing the network is complicated by the opposition of local politicians due to the national minority schools that are undergoing restructuring, although it directly affected Lithuanian schools as well. There are accusations of discrimination against national minorities, but the municipality of Trakai district strives to maintain the principle of equality – it supports and invests equally in all schools if possible. Just this year, a huge, one million euro financing was allocated from the municipal budget for the repair works of the Trakai Gymnasium (Polish is the language of instruction).
What were the consequences for the students of the suspension of the council’s decision?
The suspension of the Council’s decision did not ensure the well-being of the students sought by the politicians, because according to today’s student register data, according to the number of students determined by the resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania, the 11th and 12th grades cannot be formed in the Paluknis Longinas Komolovskis gymnasium of the Trakai district, therefore the students of the 3rd and 4th grades of the gymnasium are not assigned to classes and are not registered in any in an educational institution. Legally, students attend a school that is not actually given the right to educate according to the secondary education program, without ensuring their safety and the opportunity to obtain a high school diploma.
There were even several proposals to solve the situation: to consider the possibility for children to study closer to their place of residence, in Palukni’s “Medeinas” gymnasium with a sufficient number of students, where conditions would be created to learn their mother tongue, or, in coordination with ŠMSM, to register students in the nearest Lentvaris Henrikas Senkevičius gymnasium and ensure education in Palukni . Although this would result in additional funding costs, the municipality would take responsibility and finance incomplete classes.
It is important to mention that the students would not feel the changes and would not experience stress, since registering students in the Lentvaris gymnasium would ensure the opportunity to study in the premises of the Paluknis Longinas Komolovskis gymnasium, with their teachers, who would be employed in the Lentvaris Henrikas Senkevičius gymnasium accordingly. The municipality would organize convenient transportation for high school students who chose to study in Lentvary.
The Onuškis Donatas Malinauskas gymnasium faced a similar situation, where also, despite the suspension of the network restructuring plan, classes III and IV of the gymnasium are not being formed. However, these students successfully chose Aukštadvaris high school before the beginning of the school year and did not cause any conflict.
What is currently underway?
The municipality continues work on the “Millennium Schools” program. The initial ideas of the two national minority schools participating in the program – Lentvaris Henrikas Senkevičius Gymnasium and Lentvaris “Versmės” Gymnasium, as well as the three largest Lithuanian schools – Trakai Vytautas Didios Gymnasium, Rūdiškiu Gymnasium and Lentvaris Motiejas Šimelionis Gymnasium were collected and their implementation discussed. The heads of the above-mentioned high schools actively participated in the implementation of the “Millennium Schools” program, they are consulting with the communities about the specific tools, equipment, and infrastructure works that need to be done, thus improving the quality of education in the Trakai district.
Trakai district municipality information