Process could lead to school closures

Schools could close and students sent off in all directions in the North Okanagan-Shuswap

Schools could close and students sent off in all directions in the North Okanagan-Shuswap.

Faced with demographic and financial realities, trustees will debate the proposed long-term facility plan Tuesday.

“The recommendations will shake the whole district up if approved,” said Chris Coers, Enderby trustee.

The 10-year plan focuses on meeting the needs of 5,500 students, down from 8,000 a decade ago.

Among the proposals in the plan are possibly closing Len Wood in Armstrong as a middle school and converting Pleasant Valley Secondary to a Grade 6 to 12 focus. If that occurs, a decision would be needed on whether Armstrong, Highland Park or Len Wood are used for elementary purposes.

Falkland Elementary could convert to kindergarten to Grade 8.

Other proposals include closing Grindrod Elementary and sending students to M.V. Beattie or Ranchero.

M.V. Beattie could be converted to kindergarten to Grade 5 while A.L. Fortune Secondary could shift to Grade 6 to 12.

“We have to look at every little thing to make sure we’re running as efficiently as possible as a district,” said Coers.

“The provincial government requires districts to have a long-term facility plan.”

However, Coers admits some of the recommendations raise concern and the board will have to consider factors such as distances for rural students and physical modifications to buildings.

“The timelines are also pretty tight,” she said, adding that there will have to be consultation with communities.

Kelly Rowe, Armstrong-Spallumcheen trustee, also has some reservations.

“My support isn’t to close any of the schools,” said Rowe.

“We don’t know what the population will be. In a few years, the decline is expected to turn around.”

Chris Pieper, Armstrong mayor, wants more details about what is being proposed for schools.

“Schools are an important asset to every community. As far as how they do it, I will have to do some research,” he said.

There are currently 75 students at Grindrod elementary and rural Enderby director Herman Halvorson isn’t sure how residents may react to a potential closure.

“It’s a function of dollars. If there is no enrolment and students have to go to Enderby or Ranchero, then they have to look at it,” he said of the school district.

North Okanagan-Shuswap School District officials confirm that the long-term facility plan is only provisional.

“We will go to all of the schools to get input from principals and staff and there will be an opportunity for public input as well,” said Rowe.

 

Vernon Morning Star