Last year, Summerlanders watched with concern as the Okanagan Skaha School Board considered whether to close one of the four public schools in the community.
The school board, in an attempt to save money, considered several closure options, including some which would have resulted in closures here.
In the end, Trout Creek Elementary School was slated for closure, but the decision was changed at the end of the school year, as a result of intervention from the provincial government.
In a small community such as ours, a decision to close a school would have far-reaching effects.
Such a change would affect the education system in Summerland and the character of the community.
While all four Summerland schools remain open at present, the long-term future of our schools is far from certain.
Summerland’s student population is declining and each of the public schools is well below its capacity.
At present, the public school enrolment in Summerland is now 1,272 students. It’s a far cry from 10 to 20 years ago when schools in Summerland needed portables to house all their students.
If Summerland’s declining enrolment continues, the school board will have to consider school closures once more.
There is a point where a student population is simply too low to justify the expenses involved in heating and maintaining a school building.
If it is important to keep all four public schools open now and in the future, it is essential for the community to consider ways of attracting families with school-aged children to Summerland.
This is the time to discuss how to bring in families and where they will be able to live.
Some of these discussions have been happening at the Chamber of Commerce and at the municipal council level.
The discussions need to continue for the long-term future of our community.