Summerland school trustee candidate Dave Stathers is expanding upon his pledge to keep Trout Creek Elementary School open.
Last week at an all candidates forum at Centre Stage Theatre, Stathers vowed to fight hard for the school and promised that he would never vote in favour of its closure.
Now, he is proposing the formation of a new stakeholders community school committee.
“This committee would include volunteer members from all groups involved in another possible school closure: parents, students, school district staff, trustees, our MLA, local government, business people, neighbourhood associations, anyone who wants some say in the decision and/or process of closing a Summerland school,” he said.
He added that the last public hearing process in 2016 was not handled properly and caused much confusion and controversy.
Stathers said his proposed new committee would get more people involved at all stages of the process. In addition, he hopes to satisfy Trout Creek parents whose protest efforts saved the school with last-minute government funding from a new Rural Education Enhancement Fund.
Education Minister Rob Fleming has stated that REEF funding will continue at least temporarily, but adds that it could get absorbed into a new education funding formula being considered by the provincial government.
Stathers has been critical of incumbent trustees Linda Van Alphen and Julie Planiden for voting to close the school.
“Democratically, they were supposed to specifically represent the concerns of Summerland citizens,” he said.
The proposed new committee would apply to all four local schools and will only be activated if a school is in jeopardy.
Stathers said the closure of Trout Creek Elementary School would have affected Summerland’s three other public schools.
Giant’s Head Elementary School would have gone to Kindergarten to Grade 3; Summerland Middle School would have transformed to an intermediate school with Grades 4 to 7 and Summerland Secondary School would have had Grades 8 to 12.
Stathers believes the changes would have caused much anxiety in the community and moving forward, it is his goal to keep one of the top-ranked elementary schools in the province open.
According to the latest Fraser Institute statistics, Trout Creek Elementary School has been ranked 216th out of 811 schools in the province since 2013.
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