A recent funding announcement from the Ministries of Education and Finance is welcome news for the Okanagan Skaha School District, but the money is not enough to keep open any of the schools slated for closure.
Last week, Dan Ashton, MLA for the riding of Penticton announced the province would give the school district an additional $266,527 in an attempt to save schools in the district.
The money is part of $25 million, redirected back to school districts, following administrative savings.
Linda Van Alphen, chair of the Okanagan Skaha School Board, said the funding is appreciated.
“These funds will address some of the immediate financial pressures currently being faced in our schools,” she said. “We are also thankful for the direction indicated by Minister of Education, The Honourable Mike Bernier, that these funds can be used by districts to invest in their individual priorities to best meet the needs of students in the district.”
However, she said the money is not enough to allow the board to reverse its earlier decision to close Trout Creek Elementary School in Summerland, West Bench Elementary School or McNicoll Park Middle School in Penticton.
Earlier this spring, the board made the decision to close the three schools in an effort to trim more than $1 million from its operating budget.
“The $260,000 is one-third of what we’d need to keep Trout Creek and West Bench open,” Van Alphen said.
The decision to close the schools has generated much public outcry.
Ashton has suggested the school board bring in a special advisor, reviewing the closure process. The cost of this advisor would be paid by the province, not the school district.
“If our school board firmly believes it properly followed the process required to close Trout Creek Elementary, there is absolutely no reason to reject the request to agree to a special adviser to be appointed by the ministry,” Ashton said earlier.
However, Van Alphen said the school district is already participating in a review, conducted by the Office of Ombudsperson. This is an independent third-party review of the school closure process and decision.