October 15, 2015 - 2:30 PM
PENTICTON - Years of declining school enrolments have taken their toll on School District 67 and the board is finding itself running out of options when it comes to future budget cuts, meaning school closures could be coming.
Approximately 60 residents gathered in the IMC Building behind the school board offices Wednesday evening, Oct. 14, to hear school officials outline the latest long range facilities plan update, and more specifically, enrolment projections for the district’s schools.
The prospect of school closures in the district became evident at the meeting as enrolment projections for most of the district’s schools are forecast to remain below capacity levels.
Enrolment in most of the district’s 18 schools has been declining, with forecast projections for the future showing little growth, H.S. Facilities Planning Consultant Hugh Skinner said as he presented each school’s past, present and future enrolments in a bar chart.
Giant’s Head Elementary, Parkway Elementary and Uplands Elementary are the only schools in the district projected to have enrolment levels at capacity in the next 10 years, while Penticton Secondary will come close to full enrolment, in part because of a robust foreign student program, Skinner said.
Schools with the lowest enrolments against total capacity included Carmi Elementary, with an enrolment capacity of 268, is presently host to 150 students, where levels are expected to remain for the next several years. McNicoll Park Middle School, with a capacity of 475 students is expected to have enrolment of just 200 students over the next three years, and Kaleden Elementary, with a capacity of 177 presently has enrolment levels of 90. West Bench Elementary also showed 'fairly significant decline' in enrolment over recent years.
The long range plan also looks at future growth in the city’s subdivisions and notes new several of the new developments in Penticton are not building family oriented residences.
The district’s total student capacity is presently at 7,561students, with current enrolment sitting at 5,661. Those 1,900 empty seats translate to a 25 per cent excess capacity, School District 67 Superintendent Wendy Hyer reported. Over the past decade the district has 'picked all the low hanging fruit' with respect to budget cuts, she says, and even with those cuts another $1.025 million will be needed to cover the 2016 budget.
“The cuts keep coming,” she says, noting programs and services are next on the list.
DIstrict 67 Secretary Treasurer Bonnie Roller-Routley told the gathering school closures would not occur without public consultation. She says the board has met to develop a closure process and says certain steps must be taken in a process that will take at least 60 days. A consultation process will take place over the next couple of months, starting with a meeting on Oct. 26, when staff will present options and public will be allowed to comment. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m at Shatford Centre.
Superintendent Hyer said the timeline for school closure would be such that this year’s school year would not be interrupted. She said the board’s final decision will be made in January 2016, following the consultation process.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015