March 29, 2016 6:32 pm
Updated: March 29, 2016 8:04 pm

Students fill School District 67 lawn to protest closures

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PENTICTON, B.C. – UPDATE: Adds response from SD 67 Board Chair Linda Van Alphen.

Disappointed at looming closures in the Okanagan Skaha School District, students and parents held a protest Tuesday afternoon on the lawn of the district offices.

Trout Creek Elementary in Summerland, McNicoll Park Middle School and West Bench Elementary School in Penticton will be closed if SD 67 board of education trustees give the closure bylaw third reading Wednesday night.

Summerland families believe trustees were given incorrect information that lead to their decision to close Trout Creek. They plan to address the board ahead of Wednesday night’s vote.

Parent Jeff Plant said SD 67 trustees did not follow their own policy for school closures, failed to take into account public feedback and used 2011 census data to forecast future growth in Summerland.

Among other issues, Plant believes SD 67 failed to respect First Nation rights by not honouring the Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement.

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Plant said if trustees close Trout Creek, Summerland will become the only community in the Okanagan Skaha School District to run an over-capacity school.

But SD 67 chair Linda Van Alphen says the district has three schools that are currently over-capacity by Ministry calculations; Uplands Elementary, Parkway Elementary and Giants Head Elementary.

Van Alphen also said the data collected was from a Long Range Facilities Plan submitted by Hugh Skinner of HS Facilities Planners using 2015 data.

She also disputes the public engagement process, which parents say was not transparent.

“The Public Engagement process created by our trustees is one of the most comprehensive and inclusive by a School District in the Province of British Columbia for consideration of school closures and/or reconfigurations,” said Van Alphen.

The board chair said the Board of Education would not be responding to Tuesday’s protest by students and parents at SD 67 offices in Penticton.

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