Parents’ concerns about Trout Creek Elementary School ignored

I would like to express my frustration with the school board, superintendent, and secretary-treasurer of School District 67.

Dear Editor:

I would like to express my frustration with the school board, superintendent, and secretary-treasurer of School District 67.

They added Trout Creek Elementary School to the closure list at the last minute, giving the community just six days to respond before the public consultation meeting.

Not only did this violate their own policy of at least seven days, all other schools slated for potential closure had one to two months to prepare.

At the public consultation meeting on Jan. 12, community members expressed concerns about the closure of Trout Creek Elementary School and the reconfiguration of Summerland schools.

Had the board been listening, they would have heard how Option I failed to meet their own established decision making criteria. This was ignored.

Trustee Johnson even said on May 9 that this decision met zero of the board’s established decision-making criteria.

On March 9, the board commented that Option I was good for Summerland and that Option I was wanted by the community.

They were later presented with a petition signed by 1,800 adults to show the opposite. This was also ignored.

The community rallied together to refute the board’s claim that Summerland isn’t growing; in fact, there are 75 lots currently being developed within walking distance to Trout Creek School, which is currently at 70 per cent capacity.

This was also ignored by the board; instead they are relying on 2011 census data. We asked the board to consider delaying the decision for one year so that they could use the new 2016 census data and this was refused.

We asked them to reconsider decommissioning space as was recommended in their own facilities report and this was ignored.

They have said they needed to close schools to balance their budget, when, in actual fact, they have more than enough money to do so without closing community elementary schools.  SD 67 says they are projecting a shortfall of $291,942 for the 2016/17 budget even with the three school closures.  SD 67’s estimated cost of keeping Trout Creek Elementary open is $363,562 yearly. Instead of closing Trout Creek Elementary School, SD67 has been asked by Summerland on May 9 to consider using any combination of the following:

o $400,000 estimated surplus for 2015/16 as per secretary-treasurer

o $250,000 reserve funding as per secretary-treasurer

o $126,076 combining 1 FTE principal / vice-principal position

o $1,388,191 operations surplus for 2014/15

o $1,624,995 operations surplus for 2013/14

o $914,955 in investments, over and above the required amount to cover employee benefit costs

The board has refused to use any of this available funding.

We also presented them with written proposals for leasing four classrooms within Summerland as a way to generate additional income as an alternative to closing Trout Creek; this was ignored.

They claim they need to close schools because of declining enrolment.  In April, Summerland also presented them with The Summerland Solution, a 45-page proposal which would bring the current 40 Montessori students into SD 67 and also attract 40 more new students to the district.  This would bring 40 to 80 new students to the district, which would generate $288,720 to $577,440 annually in per-student funding.

They also refused this proposal.

Every single solution has been refused or ignored.

They have refused our request that they request a special adviser from the province to review their process.

If the relentless pursuit of closing Trout Creek Elementary School is not about money or about increasing student enrolment, what is it about?

If they refuse to open up their process that they are so confident in to a special adviser from the province at no cost to them, is that not indicating a complete lack of confidence in their process?

Meghann Pleasance

Summerland