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LARSON ON SCHOOL CLOSURES: An open letter to residents of Osoyoos

Linda Larson, MLA, Boundary-Similkameen
Image Credit: Contributed
May 02, 2016 - 9:39 AM


The Town of Osoyoos is known throughout North America as a retirement mecca and one of the best vacation places in the Okanagan. Millions of dollars in marketing has been spent over the past 20 years to encourage retirees, snowbirds and tourists to come here, with incredible success.

The community more than lives up to its trademarked slogan, “Canada’s Warmest Welcome.”

The provincial government contributes to building Osoyoos’ tourism infrastructure through the Resort Municipality Initiative. Osoyoos is one of 14 B.C. communities designated as resort municipalities, and a lot of government funding for community projects has come through that designation. More than $400,000 in funding was used last year to make major improvements around Gyro Beach, for example.

Realtors and developers have capitalized for years on the senior migration from the Lower Mainland, and that will continue to bring people to Osoyoos. Seniors are a valuable resource for any community. They bring ideas, skills and volunteer hours, which are a benefit to any community.

The only downside to this migration is that there are few children in that movement. Families need industry with good wages to attract them to communities. The tourism Industry has an abundance of work for people, but is still catching up in the family-supportive wage category.

During the past two months the community has been faced with the very real and very emotional issue of schooling for senior students. I have faced criticism, along with the government, over funding levels for Osoyoos Secondary School, that it should operate regardless of the number of students enrolled.

I have also been criticized for not attending the public meetings on the issue. We elected good people to represent the best interests of all students in the district. It would have been inappropriate to use my MLA position in any other capacity than to support the school board in its efforts to do its job, and the Town of Osoyoos and parents’ group to engage and look at all possible options. The focus needed to remain on the community and the issue: What are the optimum numbers of students to ensure the best education possible?

I made every effort to remain in contact and support the entire community during that time and I continue to do that.

The closure of OSS will not signal the demise of the community. Osoyoos is a thriving community and will continue to be.
There are many ways for a beautiful place like Osoyoos to encourage younger families to move here. Many industries are clean, green and tourist friendly and have supportive wages for families. I know Mayor Sue McKortoff and council are working hard to attract new employers and family-supportive jobs to Osoyoos and I will continue to support their efforts.

I believe the students from Osoyoos will not suffer either emotionally or from an education standpoint by finishing their schooling in Oliver. The teachers from SOSS and OSS will ensure all students are treated fairly and receive the best education possible by providing a welcoming environment for all.

Linda Larson, MLA, Boundary-Similkameen

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