Building for education

A $1.2-million upgrade project at Summerland Secondary School will be difficult for some in the community to watch.

A $1.2-million upgrade project at Summerland Secondary School will be difficult for some in the community to watch, especially after recent school closure announcements.

The closure of West Bench Elementary School and McNicoll Park Middle School in Penticton and Trout Creek Elementary School in Summerland was done in an attempt to trim more than $1 million from the Okanagan Skaha School District’s operating budget.

It would be easy to view the building improvements as a direct result of the school closures, as if the savings from closures could be funnelled into upgrades.

However, it would be a mistake to connect these two items.

Building and maintenance items, such as the roof upgrade at Summerland Secondary School, are not connected to operating expenses.

In addition, most of the money for the roof work will come from the province, not the school district. The province is contributing $1.1-million while the school district’s contribution is $100,000.

The provincial contribution came with conditions attached. It had to be used for buildings and a specific application had to be submitted and then considered before the money was given.

Even when the funding process is understood, parents will still feel frustration as the roof upgrade is being done.

Some will question why the province could find $1.1 million to improve a building in Summerland while at the same time insisting that the school district cut its operating budget by almost the same amount.

Others will wonder if an overhaul of the provincial education ministry could have freed up the money to keep schools open.

The timing of the upgrade announcement, so soon after the closures were finalized, will be a sore point for some, even if the two are unconnected.