Budget cuts, school closures

Dwindling enrolment and budget cuts could force school closures, grade shifts and program cuts in the North Okanagan-Shuswap.

On Tuesday, a school board meeting with a full house of parents, public and local government representatives heard a dismal long-term facilities plan.

"I thought a few years ago we had cut everything we could cut. Now, we are going places trustees do not want to go,” says North Okanagan-Shuswap School Board of Education chair Bobbi Johnson.

"We've already cut in so many areas which we hoped didn't affect the classroom too, too much, like custodial and administration. Last year, we had to cut things that do impact the classroom, like family life and library time, and this year the cuts are going to go even deeper. It's tough to do this."

Secretary-treasurer Sterling Olson estimates the board will need to cut an additional $1.8 million from last year, while expecting a decline of 137 students.

"It is a very challenging financial picture, and it looks like we have a number of years of financial challenges ahead of us,” says Olson.

The board has voted to consult the public on five recommendations to start September 2015, including the closure of Silver Creek Elementary and closing a significant portion of Parkview Elementary.

"We can no longer maintain the status quo," adds Johnson. "We have cut everywhere we can, and now we have to cut some more. We have to look at everything."

Local politicians have shown interest in bringing the funding issues to light, with Columbia Shuswap Regional District director Rhona Martin and Armstrong Coun. Paul Britton commenting that local governments need to take up the challenge to get more funding for education.

"That would be wonderful, because the groups fighting for it right now aren't being heard. It's going to take the public to say enough is enough," says Johnson.

The five recommendations being considered, subject to public consultation and review, are:

  1. Closure of Silver Creek Elementary and redistribution of students to Salmon Arm elementary schools for September 2015
  2. Creating a K-5, 6-8 and 9-12 grade configuration in all Salmon Arm schools by converting Ranchero Elementary to K-5 and transferring Grade 6 and 7 students to Shuswap Middle School
  3. Creating a K-5, 6-8 and 9-12 grade configuration in Sicamous schools by converting Parkview Elementary to K-5 and Eagle River Secondary to a Grade 6-12 school with a ‘middle school within a secondary school’ philosophy (6-8 and 9-12), while closing a significant portion of Parkview to better align capacity with student enrolment and improve space utilization at the school, for September 2015
  4. Converting Falkland Elementary to a K-8 school for September 2015
  5. Converting North Shuswap Elementary to a K-8 school for September 2015

Over the next 60 days, the board will hold public meetings in each of the affected areas. The public is also invited to phone, email or write their thoughts and concerns to trustees. The public can also contact the board via the school district's website.


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