If a proposal by Mayor Peter Waterman is successful, Summerland could have its own school board once again.
Waterman expects to discuss his proposed pilot project at the upcoming Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.
The change would be significant.
Since 1996, Summerland’s schools have been under the jurisdiction of the Okanagan Skaha School District, which also makes decisions affecting schools in Penticton and outlying areas.
Those who were connected with the education system in Summerland before that time, whether teachers, students or parents, often speak fondly of a well-run, innovative and progressive school district.
Over the last school year, the community watched as the Okanagan Skaha School Board considered closing a school in Summerland, in an effort to cut costs.
The closure did not happen, but the discussions triggered concerns about the future of education in this community.
A Summerland-specific school district could be seen as a way to ensure Summerland’s needs are a priority.
However, a return to a Summerland-only school district would not be the same as the school district which existed here prior to 1996. The community, the curriculum and the funding model have all changed significantly.
The student population has decreased significantly in the past 20 years. The education funding model has also changed and the province now allocates funding on a per student basis.
A school district needs people in certain administrative-level positions. While some of these positions could be shared between the municipality and a Summerland-only school district, others are specialized roles.
Waterman’s educational pilot project deserves further examination. However, such a model might not be enough to ensure all our schools continue to remain open.