The impending closure of three schools in the region, including one in Summerland, is difficult for the students, families and communities involved.
Earlier this year, the Okanagan Skaha School Board voted to close West Bench Elementary School and McNicoll Park Middle School in Penticton and Trout Creek Elementary School in Summerland. The closures, which are the result of budget constraints, will take effect at the end of June.
While parents of Trout Creek students have worked hard to keep their school open, trustees have to consider their financial limitations.
Under the present educational structure, school districts receive their funding from the province and must then decide how to use the money they have available. Deficit budgets are not allowed.
In fall, when the first discussions about school closures began, the board was looking to trim more than $1 million from its budget.
Now, despite the three closures, additional cuts of $291,942 are still needed.
Throughout the province, other school boards are facing similar financial limitations.
Some boards, including Vancouver, are submitting deficit budgets, even though the trustees could be removed from office for doing so. If this happens, an official would be appointed to balance the budget and make the necessary cuts.
Other boards, including the Okanagan Skaha School Board, are making difficult decisions in order to balance their budgets.
For the school boards, there are no good options. School closures and cost-cutting measures eventually affect the students. Refusing to comply with the province’s balanced budget legislation also has some serious consequences.
When almost every school district across British Columbia is facing huge financial challenges, it’s time to consider whether the present funding model should be revisited.