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Province comes up with plan to save South Okanagan schools from closure

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June 15, 2016 - 1:45 PM

PENTICTON - Just when it appeared all hope was lost, the province has announced new measures to help keep rural schools open in B.C.

The B.C. Ministry of Education announced today, June 15, the establishment of a new Rural Education Enhancement Fund.

The amount of funding a school district can apply for will be equal to the district’s anticipated savings from closing the school. School districts will be able to apply annually for the funds as long as the schools are located in a rural community outside Kelowna, Greater Victoria or the Lower Mainland, and in communities with a population of less than 15,000.

The schools will also have to meet the following criteria:

  • Closing a school will eliminate specific grades in a community.
  • The funding must be used to keep the school open.
  • Closure due to facility condition or extreme enrolment decline are not eligible.

Premier Christy Clark has also given MLA Linda Larson, the newly appointed parliamentary secretary for rural education, the task of conducting a full study of rural education funding in the province in order to seek a solution to the issues facing rural schools.

Eligible schools in Okanagan Skaha and Okanagan Similkameen school districts facing closure include Trout Creek Elementary School and Osoyoos Secondary School.

The province previously announced funding for school districts in the form of not having to pay the administrative savings they were required to make for the upcoming school year. MLA Dan Ashton suggested the funds could be used to keep schools open.

When contacted following the announcement, Okanagan Similkameen School District board chair Marieze Tarr said it was the first she had heard of the fund, adding the board would have to go through all the details before commenting. The district had yet to get official notice of the fund, Okanagan Skaha School District Supt. Wendy Hyer said this afternoon.

School District 67 board chair Linda Van Alphen said the board would seek clarification and meet to discuss the funding once it was presented officially.

- This story was updated at 3:30 p.m., June 15, 2016, to include comments from Okanagan Skaha School District 67.

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