Low enrolment and bleak projections have prompted School District 67 to consider closing some of its schools.
The district’s Long Range Facilities Plan was presented to the public during a presentation on Oct. 14 at the Shatford Centre.
“At the end of the day, offering the best educational opportunity that we can for our students should be our goal,” said Dawn Renaud, former chair of the District Parents Advisory Council (DPAC) who attended the meeting. “It’s nice when we can keep them at a school that’s close to home, but sometimes we just can’t do that.”
A total of 16 of the 19 schools are operating under capacity. Overall enrolment has dropped from 7,894 in the year 2000 to 5,842 as of September 2015. Because of this, over $3 million in cuts are expected over the next three years, with aAt least an additional $750,000 each following year if numbers do not increase.
The possibility of closures previously became a concern while Renaud was serving as chair, and the end result was the closure of Nkwala Elementary – the school her husband and daughter once attended.
Superintendent Wendy Hyer said no closures or reconfigurations will be made before consulting fully with community stakeholders.
During the presentation it was pointed out how students at Princess Margaret Secondary School are subject to fewer educational offerings than their Penticton Secondary School counterparts. And among the district’s middle and secondary schools, there are only 3,404 students, but there is capacity for 4,650.
Hyer said no target for the reduction of enrolment capacity has been set — only enrolment numbers have been laid out and numerous other factors still have yet to be considered.
“Shutting a school down will affect everybody that works in the building,” said Leslea Woodward, president of the Okanagan-Skaha Teachers’ Union. “They might have work, but as the superintendent stated last night, it might not be full-time work.”
School District 67 will be collecting input during a public meeting on Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. at the Shatford Centre.