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Armstrong, Silver Creek schools saved from closure

Armstrong Elementary School.
Image Credit: City of Armstrong
December 14, 2016 - 8:05 AM

NORTH OKANAGAN - School closures in the Armstrong and Salmon Arm areas are officially off the table.

School District 83’s official trustee Mike McKay made the decision at a board meeting last night, Dec. 13, according to a media release from the district.

The move comes after a staff report indicated there was no reason to consider closing the schools, which were placed on the chopping block by the former school board. Those trustees were fired by the province last summer and replaced with McKay.

"If you are keeping schools open and unable to run programs, that is not a responsible direction to go. This decision is not saying no closures ever. It is saying because of circumstances, it is off the table now,” McKay said.

With an increase in enrolment and additional funding sources from the Ministry of Education, including the Rural Education Enhancement Fund, district staff recommended, and McKay agreed, that there be no consideration for closure of Silver Creek and Armstrong Elementary schools at this time.

McKay said the original motions were made at a time when there was at least some reason to consider closures. However, with the increased enrolment, the move out of funding protection, and access to several new government funding programs, the circumstances have changed.

He noted the main factor in the decision not to amalgamate Silver Creek and Salmon Arm West is the overall improvement in district finances as well as the creation of the Rural Enhancement Fund. The fund provides districts with funds equal to that of what would have been saved from a potential school closure or amalgamation.  

In Armstrong, the main factor was additional funding provided to the district through the return of administrative savings, new transportation funding and the fact that the district is now out of funding protection, according to the release.

There will be ongoing efforts to bring new program initiatives online in Armstrong schools to attract area students who have chosen to attend other schools, the release states.

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