Storefront schools in Sicamous, Salmon Arm and Enderby are being cut back as the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District attempts to meet a projected $1.8 million budget shortfall.
Storefront schools, which assist adult learners, were targeted because of rising costs and a decline in adult student enrolment. The three schools combined currently serve 38 adult students.
“Basically, our adult-learning program was costing us more than the ministry funds us, so these changes cut it back to the level where we are spending the money the ministry is giving us for adult education on adult education, and we are not taking away from anywhere else,” explained SD#83 spokesperson Alice Hucul.
How this translates, according to Tim Lavery, an educator with the Sicamous Learning Centre, is a 70 per cent reduction in opening hours and a 50 per cent reduction in staffing.
The learning centre itself will be closed, and programming would likely be run out of Eagle River Secondary.
“It will have a significant impact on the delivery of programming for adult students in small communities,” said Lavery.
Sicamous-Malakwa Trustee Barry Chafe calls the perception the program is being cut “unfair.”
“You only have so much money in the pot, and the challenge that we have is when you don’t have a program that’s being funded completely you have to find it from other sources.
“The challenge here, with the adult program, your next source is school-age kids…,” said Chafe.
Salmon Arm’s APEX program is also being restructured.
It will be moved from its current location to the Downtown Activity Centre, with a reduction of instruction time resulting in a $94,000 saving.
The proposed restructuring of adult programming is expected to save the school district $354,000.
Specifics relating to what adult programming will look like in the 2013/14 school year have yet to be determined.
“I will be meeting with continuing-ed staff as well as the principals of the secondary schools involved to brainstorm the best methods to meet the needs of each community with the limited resources available,” said Wendy Woodhurst, the school district’s director of instruction.