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MLA still not convinced Okanagan Skaha schools need to close

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June 01, 2016 - 3:30 PM

PENTICTON - Money provided to Okanagan Skaha School District by the province should allow for renewed discussions on how to keep two schools slated for closure open, at least according to our local MLA. 

Penticton MLA Dan Ashton reacted to comments made by School District 67 Supt. Wendy Hyer following the province’s announcement to provide $266,527 in administrative savings to the district yesterday, May 31.

"I thought that was a board decision, not one of the school superintendent, so I’ll wait for the board’s decision,” Ashton says in response to the superintendent’s comments. "Hopefully the board will consider all their options that have come forward from concerned parents, and some very good ideas have come from them, including not only the money provided yesterday, but the rural grant as well."

Closure of Trout Creek and West Bench Elementary Schools would eliminate a special rural grant provided the district to operate the two schools, Ashton notes, adding he hopes the board will use this opportunity for sober second thought and take into consideration what residents have been saying.

"It’s not all about consolidation, schools are an integral part of these communities from West Bench to Trout Creek. I hope they will take the additional funds they don’t have to send into the government and utilize that to keep the schools open, even if the schools are reduced in size,” Ashton says.

He feels in terms of the number of people he sees moving into the valley, the move to close schools is shortsighted.

“You have to look forward to the future. I know they are facing some pressures right now, but I don’t want to see this money going into raises for senior staff,” he says. "I’ve been very frank about this. This money belongs to the kids, in my opinion, and with respect to senior staff, everybody’s financially challenged these days. I just hope they’ll take a look at this and expand on some of the ideas presented by the parents of both West Bench and Trout Creek and see if we can work to do whatever is possible to keep these two schools open."

As far as the money being a one-time only offering, Ashton says budgets are annual events, and he’s not heard from the province this is to only be a one-time offering.

“I have confidence there will be continued funding coming,” he says. “This is about the kids, let’s make sure it remains about the kids.”

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