March 3, 2016 2:43 am
Updated: March 3, 2016 9:17 pm

Summerland council comes out swinging at possible school closures

Parents packed a public meeting last month to oppose the closure of Trout Creek Elementary in Summerland.

Travis Lowe/ Global Okanagan

SUMMERLAND, B.C. – One of the towns facing possible school closures in Okanagan-Skaha is demanding trustees delay making a decision until communities can be properly consulted.

Summerland Mayor Peter Waterman sent School District 67’s Board of Education a letter March 1, copying the document to local media.

Waterman is trying to stop trustees from closing two Summerland schools, a proposal being considered to save the school district money.

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SD67 is looking at closing Trout Creek or Giant’s Head elementary schools in Summerland. Several schools could also be closed in Penticton.

“When considering whether or not to close a school, the community must be given the opportunity to influence the final decision,” said Waterman in the letter. “If the outcome is a foregone conclusion, it is not real consultation.”

Waterman said the closures would inflict economic and social damage on his community.

“It is incomprehensible that no other options besides school closures have been considered for public consultation,” said the letter.

Waterman said parents’ suggestions to save money and keep schools open were “dismissed out of hand, or met with skepticism or disinterest” by the board during public meetings.

The mayor and council propose a joint council-school board select committee and to delay the decision to close schools, which is scheduled to be announced March 9.

Summerland council believes enrolment projections for their town have been understated by SD67 and are inconsistent with local building statistics.

A schedule added to the letter shows 197 permits were issued by the District of Summerland in 2015 worth $24.6 million.

Council is asking for “more accurate data and greater transparency.”

When it comes to re-purposing a school in Summerland, council points to Glenfir School, a private institution that has sat empty for five years with no prospective buyer.

“We need to work on a collaborative basis, apply creative thinking, and come up with a made-in-Summerland solution to ensure all students in the community have equal opportunities to reach their maximum potential.

A spokesperson from SD 67 says they will respond to Summerland’s letter at Monday’s regular board meeting.

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