The Glenfir School, a private school based in Summerland, is closing its doors permanently on March 18.
Craig Dunbar, head of the school, said the decision to close was upsetting.
“It’s a tragedy, but it was a situation that couldn’t be avoided,” he said.
The school had been in existence since 1993, offering Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12.
Declining enrollment took its toll on the school. At its peak in the early 2000s, the school had around 175 students. That number had dwindled to 76 this year.
“We simply do not have the financial means to continue operating our facility,” Dunbar said. “Unfortunately, we will not be able to re-open the school again after spring break.”
When the announcement was made on March 17, staff at the school were working to place the students in other schools. Dunbar said the school has been working to make the transition as smooth as possible.
“We tried at all costs to avert this time of year as opposed to June. That was our biggest obstacle to overcome and unfortunately it became larger than we anticipated,” he said. “It makes for a difficult jolt to our families, our community and ultimately to the kids.”
Dunbar said the mood was emotional at the school following the announcement of the closure.
“There is a strong feeling of sadness amongst all those who worked so tirelessly to develop The Glenfir School,” he said.
In addition, a staff of 18, including 14 teachers, will be affected by the closure.
Dunbar said the recession and the demographics of the area had both taken their toll on the school.
“The economic reality, as it is, is difficult for families right now,” he said. “There are people who are struggling. That’s certainly been a major factor.”
Of the students at the school, the largest group were from Penticton and the South Okanagan, followed by West Kelowna students. Only six of the present students were from Summerland.
Wendy Hyer, superintendent of the Okanagan Skaha School District said some Glenfir parents have already contacted the school district to register their students in public schools.
“We’ve been working to make it as smooth as possible,” she said. “These kids are in a tough situation. We’ll do our best to meet the needs of the kids.”
She added that there is space at Giant’s Head Elementary School in Summerland, but Trout Creek Elementary School is near capacity.