PENTICTON - It’s the Okanagan Similkameen school district's turn to face the prospect of school closures due to declining enrolments.
As Okanagan Skaha school board trustees prepare to deliver their decision on school closures next week, the school board encompassing Okanagan Falls, Oliver, Osoyoos and Keremeos look at the prospect of schools closing in their district.
School District 53 trustees have reviewed their 2015 facilities plan as they considered a number of factors, according to a media release.
The school board consided three main factors including optimization of educational opportunities for students, minimizing the impact of declining enrolment and elimination of the structural deficit, which is expected to increase from $530,000 to $1.4 million by 2017/18.
At a special board meeting on Jan. 14 the trustees passed two motions concerning school closures.
They will begin a consultation process around the proposed closure of Osoyoos Secondary with the students transfered to South Okanagan Secondary in Oliver.
The board is also considering closing Osoyoos Elementary. Osoyoos Secondary would be renovated and changed to a kindergarten to grade 9 school.
A petition launched today, Jan. 15, to save the two schools argues the most important concern is the impact the two options would have on the students forced to bus to Oliver.
"We started the petition because we are community members who care about our schools and our town. Closing a school would not only affect the students and parents, but the community as a whole," petition organizer Allison Baskett says.
Baskett and Lisa Fredericks have started the petition on behalf of the group Save Osoyoos Secondary/Elementary School.
The women say their concerns are primarily for the students. They are concerned busing will have an adverse impact on their productivity, homework time, and ability to take on after school activities and jobs.
They are also concerned about the impact closing a school would have on the town.
"Many young families would consider relocating if one of the schools closed, and it would deter families from moving here," Baskett says. "This would impact our local businesses, long term employees and economy.”
They hope the petition will force the school board into making a decision that doesn’t result in one of the Osoyoos schools being closed down. They say Osoyoos residents are willing to work hard to see that doesn’t happen.
"There are other communities with multiple elementary and secondary schools - why is a community that only has one of each being targeted? We would like to get signatures into the thousands. This is not just a issue for the town of Osoyoos but for our province as a whole - school closures need to stop,” she says.
"I am passionate about this issue as a parent and as a life long Osoyoos resident,” says parent Brenda Dorosz. “I did my entire schooling here, my son will graduate in June, but this still affects me.”
Dorosz says she is organizing town hall meetings and collecting opinions from other parents. She will be using her years of experience as Parent Advisory Council president and District Parent Advisory Council president to come up with group solutions.
“We want to stay calm and move to a solution together,” she says.
The first community consultation meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Feb. 9 with a second community consultation meeting at 7 p.m. on March 8. Both meetings will be held at Osoyoos Secondary.
The board will hold a special meeting April 6 at a yet to be announced location to make a decision on the proposed closures.
Written feedback can also be submitted through the school district website.
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