A letter from Summerland parents urged the community’s two school board trustees to reverse the decision to close the elementary school.
The letter, from Mike Pleasance, on behalf of nearly 700 Summerland residents who had signed a petition, was sent to trustees Linda Van Alphen and Julie Planiden.
The decision to close Trout Creek Elementary School and two other schools in the Okanagan Skaha School District was made on March 9. The final reading of the bylaw was on March 30.
“You have an opportunity on March 30th at the final reading to do something none of us can,” the letter read.
“You can be a champion for your community and reverse the decision to close Trout Creek Elementary School and re-configure Summerland schools.”
In the letter, Pleasance said there are many in the community who want to see Trout Creek Elementary School remain open.
In addition to the petition, there were 82 survey responses and 61 letters received by the school board, outlining the negative aspects of closing the elementary school.
“The community of Summerland has spoken; there must be a better solution for educating our children than what has been proposed and we can find it if we try,” the letter read.
The text of the letter follows unedited:
March 28, 2016
Dear Trustee Van Alphen and Trustee Planiden:
Over the past number of months, as residents in Summerland, we have been on an emotional rollercoaster. For me in particular, it started with relief; since my children go to Trout Creek Elementary School, the worst case scenario at the outset was that our school would be converted to a K7 elementary school. Sure, we would lose our middle school which wasn’t ideal, but it wouldn’t have a significant impact on the wellbeing of our children and the makeup of our community in Trout Creek.
Nevertheless, I went to the public consultation meeting at Giant’s Head Elementary to voice my opinion that it wasn’t fair for Summerland to have a different educational model/opportunities than Penticton. When the announcement was made of January 6 th , 2016 that Trout Creek Elementary School was now going to be considered for closure, the emotion changed to complete shock. How could another option be added at the very end of the consultation process? If closing Trout Creek Elementary School wasn’t a good option three months ago when the process started, why was it all of a sudden a good option now? How were we going to mount a solid argument for keeping our school open with only six days until the public consultation meeting?
Well, the parents of Trout Creek, our PAC and many others around our community stepped up in a big way to present a very emotional, yet still fact based, justification on why the closure of Trout Creek Elementary School and reconfiguration of Summerland schools did not meet the outlined decision making criteria. Shortly after the public consultation, when it came to light that Trout Creek Elementary School received the Elementary Small Community Funding Grant, my emotional state soared to one of confidence. I thought there was no possible way our school could be closed based on the rushed public consultation, the feedback received at that meeting and finally our school receiving a grant which not only generated income for the School District, but also was the foundational reason why other schools were omitted from the closure process. The grant that Trout Creek Elementary School was receiving surely had to be the final nail in the coffin on any thoughts of closing the school.
Boy was I wrong! On March 9 th , 2016 when the Board of Trustee’s voted to close Trout Creek Elementary School and reconfigure the Summerland schools, all that confidence was replaced by deep anger and resentment. Our own trustees didn’t listen to what was said during the public consultation. The trustees that we, the residents of Summerland, had elected, threw the community under the bus and voted for sweeping changes in Summerland so that Penticton could remain relatively status quo.
I realize now that anger and resentment wasn’t fair. You are both intelligent and accomplished women who would not have run for public office if you did not care deeply for the community of Summerland. I have to believe that you voted for what you believed was the best possible scenario for the community of Summerland. So now I find myself in a state of hope.
You have an opportunity on March 30 th at the final reading to do something none of us can. You can be a champion for your community and reverse the decision to close Trout Creek Elementary School and reconfigure the Summerland schools. I believe that you both have the strength of character to admit that things have changed since March 9 th . There has been a groundswell of feedback opposing the changes to Summerland schools; it is from the entire community of Summerland and it cannot be denied. It is not just parents and student at Trout Creek Elementary School that disagree with the decision, it is people from all Summerland schools, developers, doctors, seniors and the Summerland Mayor and Council. You are not hearing a loud voice from a select few; the petition being circulated has already been signed by nearly 700 Summerland residents, and the campaign has just gotten started. The premise that Summerland as a whole supports the decision to reconfigure the schools, is factually incorrect. I have gone over all of the survey feedback and mail/email correspondence related to Option I. From what I could find, there were exactly 51 comments from the survey supporting Option I, four of which were clearly from Penticton residents. There was only one letter that I could find written in support of Option I. Including the initial proposal of Option I, that comes to a total of 49 comments/letters from Summerland residents supporting Option I. Please compare this to the 82 survey responses and 61 letters that you have received outlining the negative aspects of Option I. Add to this total the 700 signatures on the petition against reconfiguring Summerland schools in the proposed manner, and the numbers do not lie; the support for Option I is very limited and the opposition is community wide.
We understand that changes need to be made in Summerland, and that it might require closing a school. However, I believe that we can work together to find a solution that has significant community byin.
The entire community of Summerland, including the Mayor, Council, and PACs, are ready to come alongside School District 67 and work to find a solution that is beneficial for all. The current solution to close Trout Creek Elementary School and reconfigure the remaining Summerland schools simply does not work; not only will it completely change the face of Trout Creek, but it will put Summerland in a position where there is no room for growth at the primary school and programs such as Strong Start and before/after school care will be lost.
The reason I have hope, is that we find ourselves in a favorable position. Our Trustees, who were elected to represent the people of Summerland, are in a position be heroes. That is what I ask of you: be a hero for your community. On March 30 th , please vote against the closure of Trout Creek Elementary School and reconfiguration of Summerland schools. Instead, work together with the people of Summerland to find a better solution for education in the community you were elected to serve.
Finally, it seems appropriate to quote Dr. Seuss, since the upcoming decision impacts so many elementary aged children: “Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!” The community of Summerland has spoken; there must be a better solution available for educating our children than what has been proposed and we can find it if we try. I hope that you will give the community of Summerland a chance to work alongside School District 67 to find a solution that meets your financial requirements, has broad community acceptance, and does not have such a negative impact on the youngest students in Summerland.
It is rare in this day and age that people truly have the opportunity to step up and be a hero. You both have such an opportunity, and I believe you will have the courage to make a lasting difference for your community.
Mike Pleasance and 700 and counting who believe there is a better option out there