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No decisions yet on school closures in South Okanagan following government funding announcement

FILE PHOTO - Okanagan Skaha school board trustees are pictured at a public meeting on proposed school closures on Wednesday, March 9, 2016. Trustees are waiting for further details on new rural school funding that could allow them to keep one, possibly two schools open in the district.
June 17, 2016 - 2:30 PM

PENTICTON - Okanagan Skaha school board has responded to the announcement by the province of new funding designed to help the district keep one, and possibly two, schools slated for closure open, with cautious optimism.

School District 67 chair Linda Van Alphen says the board and district staff have contacted the Ministry of Education to confirm the application process and timeline attached to the the new Rural Education Enhancement Fund announced on Wednesday, June 15. The ministry is currently working on the details, in addition to producing a question and answer document.

Once this initial information is made available, the board intends to call a special public meeting requiring 48 hours notice to discuss the fund and criteria necessary to make application for Trout Creek Elementary School as a potential recipient for funding. The board will make an application for West Bench Elementary, also slated for closure.

The funding must be confirmed in order for either school to remain open.

Penticton MLA Dan Ashton discussed the new fund with approximately 50 people at Trout Creek Elementary School in Summerland yesterday, June 16. He says time is of essence for the board to make application to get the funding in time to keep Trout Creek Elementary open this year.

Ashton says the funding is non-partisan, noting roughly half of the schools the funds could rescue from closure throughout the province are from NDP ridings. He said the board was also encouraged to apply for funds to keep West Bench Elementary open as well.

“Everbody is working hard on this. We all need to roll up our sleeves - we don’t need to be parochial anymore. We’ve got to make this work, with a coordinated effort from everybody, including the Municipality of Summerland,” Ashton says, adding open, operating schools helped attract investment and families to the community.

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