Fears 'drug zones' in city

Re: Proposed closure of Parkway and Carmi Elementary

School District 67 has proposed the closure of two long established Penticton elementary schools— Parkway Elementary and Carmi Elementary.

The term “established” should not be overlooked, they have stood for years, not only as schools, but also as cornerstones that helped establish their neighbourhoods. The children in the neighbourhoods will now have to walk longer distances through drug and crime infested streets for their schooling.

The school district and the B.C. Ministry of Education refuse to share what their long-term plan is for these properties (I'm not betting on an art school).

Anyone who has children at these schools will sadly be directly effected. However, the legacy impact will be the destruction of these neighbourhoods as safe and healthy options for families and seniors. These properties critical components for outdoor activities and recreation, these “urban parks” provide a safe space for children, the elderly and sports clubs outside of school hours. They are the hub of the neighbourhoods and create healthy options that define a sustainable community.

The current provincial government has taken steps to legalize the use of heroin in public. The City of Penticton has taken action to put in place protections around sensitive community assets like these schools and playgrounds. Now we find out the work around is to just eliminate the protected areas, giving more free space for drug use and crime in our neighbourhoods.

Currently the only effective protections these neighbourhoods have is that they are adjacent to, or near the school grounds themselves. Police and city bylaw enforcement officers do a terrific job responding with care, and prioritize preference to where families and children gather to play. The parks, playing fields and playgrounds bring added foot traffic that deters loitering and crime.

These properties act as sanctuaries of safety for families and pet owners and, in most cases, with care for the disabled given priority in their design, they help raise the quality of life for people that would otherwise be shut in.

The traffic design is calmed and controlled, allowing pedestrians and cyclists to safely enter and leave their neighbourhoods. Cross-walks at these schools are well marked and maintained, and provide peace

of mind to parents, the disabled and elderly pedestrians.

Back to the proposal, the school district was asked what will happen to the school and grounds when the schools close? SD67's scripted answer was the ministry will find an appropriate community partner. But the school district has avoided defining what Victoria deems appropriate, and sadly our city is MIA.

I put it to my fellow (resident), let us make it clear what is appropriate for our community. Lets take the wheel and send a clear message to our representatives.

The City of Penticton has not placed any conditions on this proposal. It has final zoning say on those properties, but has not applied for stakeholder status. Currently, the Carmi property is adjacent to Interior Health facilities, a entity that has a history of making ill-thought out decisions with devastating impacts on the communities they share space with.

After witnessing how the provincial government attempted to push (a safe) injection site into Richmond General Hospital, we should be asking much deeper questions as to why we cannot get an answer on the plans for our parks and schools. Unlike Richmond, it will ask already threatened neighbourhoods to surrender their parks and recreation spaces.

School District 67 refuses to go on the record stating it has not negotiated with Interior Health for this purpose.

These properties were endowed to the province on the condition schools be provided. If that endowment is now being unilaterally terminated, the time for the city to act is now. The City of Penticton needs to lock in the current zoning on those properties until public engagement has been scheduled.

I challenge the mayor and city councillors to stand up for the working families of Penticton, and prevent the further destruction of our neighbourhoods. We have both provincial and federal elections upcoming. Let's put these plans on the ballot and force the candidates to commit to school zones or drug zones.

Please call and email your councillors and mayor, remind them they have the tools to do the right thing, and to stand up for our community. Do not turn our school zones into drug zones.

Larry Morgan, Penticton

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