The Board of Education for Okanagan Skaha School District (#67) has apparently decided to close Trout Creek Elementary School, a neighbourhood school for the Trout Creek region of Summerland since the late 1950s or early 1960s.
This decision was made when Giant’s Head Elementary is already at or above capacity in student population.
At the same time, the municipality of Summerland provided the Board of Education with very reasoned arguments for not closing this school.
One of the significant arguments included that the School District’s own Long Range Facilities Plan Update projected slight increases in student population for three of the four schools in Summerland.
The fourth, Trout Creek Elementary, receives a Small Communities Grant that increases if enrolment declines.
As well, the municipality noted that at present there are 72 single family lots ready for market in Trout Creek with the potential for an additional 75 lots in the future.
These numbers I don’t believe include other areas within the boundaries identified for Trout Creek Elementary.
In the Giants Head Elementary catchment area there is expected to be growth of between 275 and 300 new single family dwellings between now and 2026.
From these indications, one could reasonably expect that the Board would not be looking to close Trout Creek but instead would be looking to planning for school expansion within a decade or so.
I am also dumbfounded that the Board would also decide to close West Bench Elementary School since its location is in a very well defined and distinct neighbourhood separated from the rest of the city of Penticton.
As well, this community school serves and supports the young students of our aboriginal community, relations with which our district agreed to improve through an Aboriginal Enhancement Agreement about eight years ago.
When we have heard so much in the news over the past few years on the lack of respect shown for and the effects of mistreatment of our aboriginal communities, the closure of this school smacks of the same attitude as has persisted since the 1950s regarding aboriginal peoples.
Our board representatives are elected to serve the parents and students of our communities, and the efforts this board has shown to devise plans for school closures rather than initiating strong advocacy for maintaining what we already have is nothing but a disservice to us all.