A decision to close Trout Creek Elementary School and reconfigure the remaining three schools in Summerland is disheartening, Mayor Peter Waterman said.
“Council’s extremely disappointed by the school board’s decision,” Waterman said. “It’s a decision that affects every student in Summerland.”
On March 9, the Okanagan Skaha School Board voted to close three schools, including Trout Creek.
The closures were considered as a way to trim $1.025 from the school board’s operating budget.
Trout Creek Elementary School has 182 students in a building with the capacity for 277 students.
Waterman said the Trout Creek area is experiencing growth, with 72 building lots on the market at present and the potential for another 75 lots to come onto the market in the future.
The 72 lots include the Lighthouse Landing subdivision, a development at the corner of Johnson Street and Highway 97 and the Woodbridge development, as well as some infill lots.
Waterman added that the school plays an important part in the Trout Creek area.
“Trout Creek is a separate community within Summerland,” he said. “The closure is going to really affect the Trout Creek community significantly.”
Linda Van Alphen, chair of the Okanagan Skaha School Board, said while Trout Creek is growing, the area does not have a large number of children.
Of the 182 students at the elementary school, she said 102 are within walking distance of the school. The rest are closer to Giant’s Head Elementary School.
Waterman said the new homes in Trout Creek mean there is an opportunity for more families to move to the area.
However, Joe Peters, a real estate agent working with the Lighthouse Landing development, said he has had a broad spectrum of potential customers, but added that the neighbourhood will likely draw older couples.
“It’s more appealing to people who have put together a bit of a nest egg,” he said, “It’s very likely that the majority of the people who purchase these will be 50 years of age and older.”
The homes, once completed, will average around $900,000, he said.
Ian McIntosh, director of development services for the municipality, said the other Trout Creek developments will also come with high price tags.
He said the building lots at the Johnson Street and Highway 97 subdivision will be priced around $200,000, while the Woodbridge lots will be priced around $300,000. When the cost of a house is included, the total price will start at $500,000, he said.
Waterman said the price tag is not necessarily a deterrent to families with school-aged children.
“The world has changed,” he said. “Young professionals these days can be making quite a lot of money.”