A difficult choice

The debate leading up to the Okanagan Skaha School Board’s decision on Wednesday evening has been difficult to watch.

The debate leading up to the Okanagan Skaha School Board’s decision on Wednesday evening has been difficult to watch.

Faced with rising costs, declining enrolment numbers and limited provincial funding, the school board needed to take action.

Trustees had the difficult task of cutting the next budget by $1,025,000.

The choices were to cut staff or close schools. Additional provincial funding, which could have prevented difficult budget cuts, was not available.

Nobody wants to see school closures and nobody wants to see staff cuts.

But something had to be done.

Enrolment has dropped over the years and as a result, closures had to be considered.

Of the 19 schools in the school district, 16 are below capacity and in Summerland alone, there are 465 open spaces. The school district’s enrolment this year, at 5,661 students, is well below the capacity of 7,561 students.

As soon as closures were mentioned, the public response, especially in Summerland, was predictable.

Parents and teachers spoke out about the value of the schools in the community, insisting that no closures should be made here.

This response is understandable. Nobody wants to see school closures, especially if the closure is a school which has been an integral part of the community.

But in the end, the trustees must consider a more important question.

That question is how they can best meet the needs of the students — all students — within the parameters of the funding they can expect to receive.

It’s a difficult question, since closures and staff cuts both have far-reaching effects.

There are no easy answers. Each option under consideration would have affected students.

There was no way the trustees could have satisfied everyone.