Trout Creek Elementary School closure appeal submitted to province

Parents affected by the closure of Trout Creek Elementary School have submitted an appeal to the provincial Ministry of Education.

Parents affected by the closure of Trout Creek Elementary School have submitted an appeal to the provincial Ministry of Education following the decision to close the school.

The appeal, dated March 18, was submitted by Mike Pleasance to Education Minister Mike Bernier and Deputy Minister Dave Byng.

The appeal document is more than 8,000 words in length.

It is in response to the Okanagan Skaha School Board’s March 9 decision to close the elementary school.

The board voted to close three schools within the school district’s boundaries.

In addition to Trout Creek, West Bench Elementary School and McNicoll Park Middle School in Penticton will close on July 1.

Pleasance hopes no schools in Summerland will be closed when the third reading of the bylaw comes up later this month.

He hopes Summerland’s two trustees, board chair Linda Van Alphen and Julie Planiden will change their vote for the third reading.

“What we’d like is for no schools in Summerland to be closed immediately,” Pleasance said.

He added that parents in Summerland have spoken out against the closure options.

“We had a very loud and clear response from the entire community of Summerland, not just the parents of Trout Creek students,” he said.

Pleasance said the savings from closing Trout Creek would be $300,000 to $350,000 a year.

According to the school district’s calculations, the closure would save $423,882.

In addition to Pleasance’s appeal, Summerland residents were invited to a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the school closure.

“The decision will not only have implications on Trout Creek but our community as a whole as it will leave our community with few or no seats for new students at the elementary level,” a statement from the meeting organizers read.

The community meeting was held Wednesday, March 23 at 7 p.m. at Summerland Baptist Church.

On Monday, Premier Christy Clark answered questions about school closures while she was in Oliver making an announcement regarding partnering with the Town of Oliver on a $1 million repair project to an irrigation system.

She argued the school closures are not a result of a lack of funding.

“They are the result of fewer students, fewer young people and so the answer to making sure that schools stay open, and that more schools are ultimately able to open, is to grow the economy,” said Clark.

The premier suggested that the opening of the Okanagan Regional Correctional Centre will attract workers to the region.

“Many with I think families who are going to help re-populate some of the empty school spaces in what has been for quite awhile an aging community. To me school districts need to make hard decisions I know that, but at a provincial level what Linda Larson and I can do is we can grow the economy,  we can create jobs and that means when more people come they will bring their children to communities across the province and that will mean schools are able to stay open, in some cases re-open and sometimes be established. That is the thing the provincial government can do,” said Clark.