SUMMERLAND, B.C. – Due to a significant decline in enrollment, School District 67 is proposing a plan to reconfigure its south Okanagan schools, potentially closing some down.
This decision is not sitting well within the community, and for the first time publically, Summerland city council is also pushing back.
“To see a healthy, vibrant, relatively new school in the system close just doesn’t seem to be the right move,” says Summerland mayor, Peter Waterman. “It’s just not going to work for us to not have the ability to have expansion in the school system.”
The Okanagan Skaha School District has declined by 2,000 over the past ten years. In Summerland alone, the school district is able to accommodate 1,766 students. Right now, it’s well below capacity with only 1,301 students in their schools.
To the school board, these numbers indicate that changes must be made. It says it’s not a surprise, as many other school boards in the province are also trying to fill classrooms.
“Low enrollment is starving our system,” says Linda Van Alphen, chair of the board of education for the Okanagan Skaha School District. But the response the district has received from city council is what’s a shock. “From my point the view it’s incredibly surprising that part of that push back is from our Mayor and council,” says Van Alphen.
Under the new proposed plan, Summerland Secondary School would house grades eight through 12. Summerland Middle School and Trout Creek Elementary School would both become a traditional elementary school, housing students in kindergarten through grade seven and for Giant’s Head Elementary to close completely.
If Giant’s Head Elementary were to close, more than 300 students would have to travel a few kilometers away to an existing school.
The school board says it’s doing the best it can, while the community thinks it can do better.
Input sessions about the proposed changes have been taking place across the district for the past two months, but those meetings wrap up this week.