YEAR IN REVIEW: A tumultuous year for the region's school districts

Armstrong Elementary School was one of several slated for closure in school districts across the region in 2016, as trustees struggled to find ways to deal with declining enrolments and budget cuts.
Image Credit: Charlotte Helston

Overstretched budgets and funding cuts took their toll on the region’s school boards this year.

The North Okanagan Shuswap Board of Education discussed closure of two schools, Silver Creek Elementary and Pleasant Valley Secondary Schools, resulting in widespread community opposition, especially over the proposed closure of Armstrong Elementary School. The school board voted in March to prolong the public consultation process for another year, allowing the two schools to remain open with the school closures officially taken off the table in December.

The school district also dealt with the firing of the entire school board on June 15 after the board came under intense scrutiny for transferring $10. 5 million in surpluses from the operating budget into the capital budget in order to build a new administration office.

Okanagan Skaha and Okanagan Similkameen School Districts, in the Okanagan Valley’s southern regions, faced a similar dilemma as the Okanagan Skaha School Board looked at shutting down three schools in Penticton and one in Summerland, and the Okanagan Similkameen School District pondered the possibility of closing two schools in their district.

As in the north, both school districts faced community opposition from parents, students and even local politicians, with the Town of Osoyoos initiating a lawsuit over the Okanagan Similkameen school board’s intention to shut down Osoyoos Secondary School.

The issues were finally resolved in late June when the province established the Rural Education Enhancement Funds program, providing additional funding necessary to keep open West Bench and Trout Creek Schools in Okanagan Skaha, and Osoyoos Secondary School in Okanagan Similkameen.

The Kamloops School District dealt with funding shortfalls through teaching and administrative staff cuts as they looked for a way to pare $3.4 million from their operating budget.

Kamloops also began dealing with the problem of aging schools as discussions with the province took place over replacement of South Kamloops Secondary School at an estimated cost of $50 million. The district also began to look at replacing other schools, reporting 50 per cent of the district’s schools were 50 or more years old.


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