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Osoyoos residents rally to keep schools from closing

More than a thousand Osoyoos residents attended a community consultation meeting hosted by School District 53 on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016.
Image Credit: Google Maps Street View
February 11, 2016 - 6:30 PM

PENTICTON - The problems of declining enrolment, excess capacity and reduced funding were shared with residents of Osoyoos during a public consultation about possible school closures in Osoyoos earlier this week.

School District 53 finds itself in a predicament echoed by many other school districts in the province, including Penticton’s School District 67.

During a community consultation meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 9, the board noted it was facing an impending financial crisis as costs to operate the district exceed the funding received from the province as it contemplates the possibility of school closures in Osoyoos.

In a presentation, the district pointed out it currently has in excess of 800 spaces, and student numbers continue to decline. Smaller numbers of students in each grade has also led to increased staffing costs and challenges as the district tries to provide a full complement of educational services.

The district also faces increasing costs associated with aging infrastructure and building maintenance costs, resulting in an estimated budget shortfall of $1.4 million by the 2017-2018 school year.

Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff attended the Tuesday evening meeting, which took place at Osoyoos Secondary School, one of the schools earmarked for possible closure. She said about 1,000 people attended and among those were some making very passionate pleas to the school district to try and look at other ways of dealing with deficit rather than closing down the school.

McKortoff said as a city official she felt April was far too soon to make that decision.

"Apparently we are the only community in B.C. where a secondary school is being closed down and going from K-12 down to K-6 or 8, whatever the option is, in the province,” she said. “We don’t think it’s a good idea, we’re hoping a district committee can be formed to help the school board, and look at things. I have no idea what’s going to happen, but we had some very impassioned students speak as to why it was important to them, we had community leaders speak. The meeting was supposed to end at 8:30 p.m., but it went from 7 until 10:45 p.m."

McKortoff said another issue with closure of Osoyoos Secondary concerns the theatre, which is not wholly owned by the school district — Osoyoos and the regional district both have a stake in the building.

“There’s a lot of issues to look at — our concern is, has everything been done, and have we given it enough time to look at those?” she said.

The next public meeting will be held at Osoyoos Elementary on March 8.  A decision on the fate of Osoyoos Secondary is expected April 6.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad at sarstad@infonews.ca or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
InfoTel News Ltd

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