School board seeks input for future use of buildings

The Okanagan Skaha School Board is asking for input on future uses of some of its school buildings.

The Okanagan Skaha School Board is asking for input on future uses of some of its school buildings.

The meeting will be held on Monday, Feb. 22 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Shatford Centre, 760 Main St., Penticton.

The purpose is to consider alternate uses of six school buildings considered for closure.

Schools considered for closure in Penticton are Carmi Elementary School, McNicoll Park Middle School, Parkway Elementary School and West Bench Elementary School.

In Summerland, Giant’s Head Elementary School and Trout Creek Elementary School are both considered for possible closures.

The school board has not yet decided which schools to close in order to trim its budget. That decision is slated for Monday, March 9.

Bonnie Roller Routley, secretary-treasurer of the school district, said the board would like input on the closures before making its decision.

Once school buildings are closed, the school district may choose to sell them, lease them for long-term or short-term leases or keep them unoccupied for a time.

Roller Routley said the maintenance costs of an empty school building have been factored into the total costs of school closures.

The proposal to close Giant’s Head School and reconfigure the remaining schools in Summerland — Option E on the school district’s list of options — has been projected to save the school district $510,862.

The option to close Trout Creek Elementary School and reconfigure the remaining schools — Option I — was forecast to save $423,882.

The closures have been presented in an attempt to cut costs for the school district.

“Financially, it is becoming more and more difficult to balance the budget and still maintain the number of programs and services that we currently offer,” a school district document from October, 2015 states. “In the next fiscal (school) year, the district will be required to cut the budget by approximately $1,025,000. Future years will require further budget reductions of a minimum of $750,000 per year, every year until such time as our enrolment decline stops.”

The school district has capacity for 7,561 students, but the present enrolment is 5,661 students. Of the 19 schools within the district, 16 are below capacity.

In Summerland alone, there are 465 open classroom spaces.

While Giant’s Head School is at capacity, Summerland Secondary School and Summerland Middle School are both below capacity.

School closure options

Options considered by the Okanagan Skaha School Board could result in the closure of one of Summerland’s two elementary schools.

Either closure would affect all remaining Summerland schools.

Giant’s Head School option

The proposed closure would see students from Kindergarten to Grade 7 attend school in the Summerland Middle School building or Trout Creek Elementary School, while students in Grades 8 to 12 would attend Summerland Secondary School.

The school, on a two-hectare property, is 3,350 square metres. It was built in 1974 and has received renovations and additions until 1984.

Trout Creek School option

Under the Trout Creek closure, students from Kindergarten to Grade 3 would attend Giant’s Head School, students in Grades 4 to 7 would attend Summerland Middle School and students in Grades 8 to 12 would attend Summerland Secondary School.

The school has an area of 2,471 square metres. It occupies a two-hectare property. It was built in 1956 and has undergone renovations and additions until 1970.