I am concerned what the closure of Trout Creek Elementary means for our children and our community.
Many members of the community feel that a poor decision has been made, a decision which simply doesn’t make sense, a decision that leaves no room for growth in Summerland.
There are a number of questions regarding the logic and fairness of the decision, as well as significant concerns with the process and policy used.
First the board said the issue was ‘excess capacity’, but they have not considered decommissioning space or removing modular rooms, as recommended in their own Long Range Facilities Plan.
Next the board stated the issue was low enrolment, then they declined a proposal to bring 40-plus students into the district, instead choosing an option that will likely result in many students leaving the district to pursue other options.
Next it was a financial/funding issue, but proposals that bring in money have been ignored, and closing Trout Creek means the Ministry ‘Small Communities Grant’ will be lost.
The reconfiguration of the remaining Summerland schools creates a different grade-level structure than in Penticton, moving away from the K-5, 6-8, 9-12 structure that was successfully introduced not many years ago.
It also leaves the new K-3 Giant’s Head Elementary over-capacity with 360-plus students between 5& 10 years old, with no room for new families who move to the community.
Growth is predicted, and several new families have moved to Summerland in the past few months.
Additionally, there are a number of examples of policy not being followed.
In fact, a whole page of the four-page school closure policy was omitted from the public handout; many of the missed steps are on that page.
The application of the School Board’s own decision making criteria has been inconsistent, and the closure of Trout Creek Elementary fails to meet many of these established goals.
According to some trustees, the process has been flawed.
As the school board has not followed their own school closure policy, or the B.C. Schools Act, I feel there must be some avenue for recourse.
The board’s autonomy to make closure decisions isn’t a license to break the rules.
I feel it would be appropriate for someone to exercise some oversight, perhaps the Ministry of Education.
I remain optimistic that logic, common sense and fairness will prevail, eventually.