School closures at odds with Summerland's vision of future growth
By Steve Arstad
District of Summerland's mayor and council have expressed their disapproval of the Okanagan Skaha school board's plan to potentially close Giant's Head elementary or any other school in the district.
Image Credit: Global Okanagan (with permission)
December 07, 2015 - 6:30 PM
PENTICTON - The mayor and council in Summerland have expressed their concern about with the Okanagan Skaha school district plan regarding potential school closures, specifically the possible closure of Giant's Head elementary school.
They say school closures are inconsistent with council’s vision for the community and condemned any school closure in the district.
"The difficulty is Summerland has recently finalized our official community plan and established an urban growth area that contains potential subdivisions that could add to the catchments of Giant’s Head school, as well as Trout Creek (elementary school),” Mayor Peter Waterman says.
He says closing Giant's Head and making the other proposed changes at the community's schools will curb the district's ability to accept new families.
"We’d like to sit down with the school board and talk about options," he says. "It’s certainly not a confrontational approach - we need to work with the school district."
Waterman admits the school board does have responsibilities and obligations to the taxpayer.
"The school board is in quite a predicament," he says. "(The trustees) have a fiscal responsibility to try and deal with."
He says the district is predicting growth and have already seen a 152 per cent increase in building permits this year from 126 to 192. Meanwhile, a number of subdivisions have just been built in the Trout Creek neighbourhood.
Parents also have concerns about the possible closure of Giant’s Head becuase it's in such good condition and is currently over-enrolled, he says.
Okanagan Skaha school board chair Linda Van Alphen says the trustees value the District of Summerland as a community partner and has invited all those concerned to be a part of the board’s consultation process. She says the board met with members of Summerland council shortly after last year’s municipal elections, at which time the long range facilities plan and declining enrolments were discussed.
“Over the past two months, Summerland councillors have participated fully in our public school meetings. To date, mayor and council from Summerland have yet to request a joint meeting with the board,” Van Alphen says in an email.
She says while mayor and council have a vision for Summerland, this vision has yet to have an impact on declining enrolments, adding should the mayor and council have immediate solutions to address the current issues the board faces, the trustees would be happy to meet to discuss them.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015