Trustees to consider Summerland Solution

The chair of the Okanagan Skaha School Board is continuing to examine a proposal to keep Trout Creek Elementary School open.

The chair of the Okanagan Skaha School Board is continuing to examine the Summerland Solution, a proposal to keep Trout Creek Elementary School open.

Earlier this year, the school board voted to close three schools within the Okanagan Skaha School District. The three schools are West Bench Elementary School and McNicoll Park Middle School in Penticton and Trout Creek Elementary School in Summerland.

In April, parents of Trout Creek students presented a proposal called the Summerland Solution in an attempt to keep their school open.

The plan calls for incorporating the Montessori School into the elementary school.

While Linda Van Alphen, chair of the school board, said a similar concept has been used “semi-successfully” elsewhere, she has concerns about the accuracy of the figures.

She said trustees have met with the parents to discuss the concept.

In addition, school board representatives have discussed finances with the parents.

“They have been through our books. We have opened up everything for them,” Van Alphen said. “We’re doing the best we can.”

The option to close Trout Creek Elementary School and reconfiguring the remaining public schools in Summerland was expected to result in savings of $423,882.

However, even with the closure of three schools, the board has had to find further cuts in order to balance the books.

According to information from the school district, the board is facing a shortfall of nearly $300,000.

The budget for the next school year requires $54,730,575.

Revenue, including provincial Ministry of Education grants, tuition from the International Student Program, the Okanagan Hockey School and community use of facilities is expected to total $54,438,633.

The shortfall of $291,942 comes despite proposed savings from the closure of three schools.

These closures will save the school district $1,187,606.

Van Alphen said the additional shortfall came as a result of the way the province calculates its funds.

The school board’s final budget will go forward at the public meeting on May 9.

The final bylaw reading is scheduled for June 13.

The school board budget must be balanced and submitted to the provincial Ministry of Education.