PENTICTON, B.C. – Closing schools is the main option for the Okanagan-Skaha School District which has to cut $1,025,000 from its next budget.
Almost 100 people came out Monday night to hear about options the board is looking at to save money. Enrollment in School District 67 has been declining the last decade as fewer young families take up residence.
Closing any one or several of these schools is part of the possible plan: McNicoll Park Middle, West Bench Elementary, Carmi Elementary, Parkway Elementary in Penticton and Summerland’s Giant’s Head Elementary.
Children from those schools would be bused to other schools, a decision that doesn’t impress parents.
“It would be pretty challenging for a little kid to get on a bus at 7:30 in the morning and drive to Penticton every day,” says Naramata parent Miranda Halladay. Naramata schools could be rearranged, but not closed.
In a handout, the District says 5,661 students are enrolled at schools in the Okanagan-Skaha area, but there are 1,900 empty seats in classrooms.
“With a few exceptions, the majority of district schools are over 20% empty and some are more than 50% empty,” says the handout given to parents Monday night. “Excess space is expensive to heat, cool, clean, maintain, etc.”
Status quo is also an option, but that would require, “Financial, Education Opportunities, and Staffing Impact”, says the information handout.
SD 67 must also find ways to cut $750,000 every year after 2016 due to projected enrollment declines.
Another dozen meetings are planned before trustees make any decisions.