February 11, 2016 - 6:30 PM
VERNON - Feedback from the public will weigh heavily on School District 83 trustees over the next two months.
The board voted earlier this week to initiate a 60-day public consultation period on closing Armstrong Elementary School and Silver Creek Elementary for September 2016.
The school district has to chop $1.3 million from its budget and board chair Bobbi Johnson says closing the schools would carry substantial savings.
“There’s lots of emotions on these things and even as trustees we have to come above those emotions and work at how to make this district run,” Johnson says.
Closing Armstrong Elementary and subsequently restructuring that community’s schools to include a Grade 8 to 12 configuration at Pleasant Valley Secondary School, and Kindergarten to Grade 7 at Len Wood and Highland Park would result in savings of at least $500,000. Given enrolment numbers, that would leave a capacity usage of 83.7 per cent, up from a current 71.4 per cent. Armstrong schools are said to have an excess capacity of 521 students.
“In reality, we have to consolidate,” Johnson says. “If we’re putting our money into heating and excess space in our buildings, is that the best thing for our district?”
Armstrong Elementary was selected as the top candidate for a closure because it's the smallest of the community's schools, Johnson says.
In Salmon Arm, closing Silver Creek and moving its students to Salmon Arm West Elementary would achieve an estimated $213,353 a year. School capacity would go from a current 83.6 per cent in Salmon Arm schools to an estimated 87 per cent. Salmon Arm currently has an excess capacity of 586 students.
Silver Creek Elementary narrowly escaped closure last year thanks to an upswell of opposition from the community. Johnson says public consultation will again play a large role in how the board votes this year. A series of community meetings will be scheduled soon, and the district is also accepting feedback by email, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Input will also be accepted online through the district's website as early as next Monday, Feb. 15.
All members of the community are encouraged to give input on the proposed closures.
“Nothing is set in stone until the day we vote in April,” Johnson says.
To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at email@example.com or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-718-2724.
— This story was corrected at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 12, 2016 to say the closures are proposed for September 2016, not 2017 as previously published.
— This story was updated at 11 a.m. Feb. 12 to reflect that savings of at least $500,000 are expected if the Armstrong school reconfiguration goes ahead. A previous version of this story included savings of $626,996.
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