Private schools watching proposed school closures

Private schools are keeping on eye on a proposal to close schools.

Private school enrolment in the province has been on the rise for years and now local institutions are keeping on eye on School District 67’s proposal to close schools.

SD67 facilities being considered for closure in Penticton are Carmi, McNicoll Park, Parkway and West Bench, as well as Giant’s Head in Summerland.

In Summerland, where families would be affected by the closure of Giant’s Head, Sheena Fowlie, Head of Summerland Montessori School, anticipates a “soft increase” in enrolment at her school.

“I think that it would further frustrate parents who have been dealing with strikes and other job action in recent years, and could very well be the final straw to push them to explore other educational options,” she said.

“We are a very small school with a family-like atmosphere and smaller class sizes, so I think that would be very attractive to parents who might be alarmed by the thought of their elementary-aged child moving to a bigger school with more older children and potentially larger class sizes.”

Superintendent Wendy Hyer wouldn’t speculate on possible outcomes, but said if reconfiguration results in district schools being able to offer more programming, it’s possible some students will be drawn back into the public system.

Art Tharrien, superintendent of schools for the Nelson Diocese — an umbrella of schools which includes Holy Cross in Penticton, said the district’s decisions on closure are being monitored.

“We’re looking at options so that when they make their decisions we can react in a way that’s going to address whatever we need to address at that time,” he said.

Beyond the modified curriculums that are offered by private schools, Karl Boehmer, principal of Penticton Christian School, said the size of a school’s population is an important factor.

With reconfigurations of public schools resulting in increased student populations, some parents may want to “maintain that sort of intimate learning experience and I could see them potentially choosing us,” Boehmer said. “It all depends what the parents are looking for. If they desire small school environment for their children then I think we become an option because right now I understand that the schools being considered for closure are fairly small neighbourhood schools.”

There will be nine public meetings throughout schools in the district between Nov. 12 and Dec. 10 for district trustees to gauge public input.

The final decision will be made during a public meeting at the IMC building on Jan. 20 at 6:30 p.m. Details of meetings can be found on the district website, sd67.bc.ca.