July 10, 2015 - 4:30 PM
KELOWNA - It’s been years since it last happened and there’s no guarantee yet that it will, but in the face of static enrolment and ever-tighter budgets the Central Okanagan School District is once again looking at possible school closures.
“I would suggest the next possible school closure would be in the Rutland area,” school district Supt. Hugh Gloster says. “I’ve spoken publicly about this at board meetings.”
The board of trustees has just received a utilization report that shows how many students each school has versus how many it could handle.
Some schools are bulging at the seams, operating as high as 142 per cent of capacity, while others are limping along at less than 66 per cent of the number of students they could conceivably handle.
A low number is not an automatic death sentence; grade configurations can be changed to shift students from an overcrowded school to an underutlized one and a school can also be enlarged and take students from other schools.
“There’s 60 school districts in the province. Only a handful are growing or even holding their own. We’re holding our own,” Gloster says.
Measured across the district, capacity utilization is 98.3 per cent but within the district pockets of growth and decline can still be quite dramatic.
Overall Rutland schools are operating at an average capacity of 87 per cent, but the local Rutland Senior Secondary is sputtering along at 70.6 per cent.
Ironically, it’s the efforts to boost enrolment at the school and save its unique programming that could sound the death knell for one of the Rutland elementary schools, about which rumours abound, Gloster says.
This spring the board agreed to increase enrolment by stripping out the Grade 9 cohort from Rutland and Springvalley middles school and moving them to the high school.
In turn, Grade 6 classes from all the eight local elementary schools will be directed to the two middle schools this fall. This is why schools like Quigley Elementary (at 64.2 per cent capacity) and Pearson elementary (at 64.7 per cent capacity) seem like obvious candidates for closure.
But Gloster cautions against making that assumption.
“That doesn’t necessarily point the arrows at them. We have Black Mountain that is really growing, we may need to move people down the hill to one of those schools. We have to look at the larger Rutland area so their current status is not necessarily where they will be at when the decision has to be made."
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015