A meeting to consult Osoyoos residents on what one parent is calling “the most important thing that our community has had to face in 30 years” will take place tonight at Osoyoos Secondary School.
Sarah Launer, right, a Grade 9 student at Osoyoos Secondary School, gets help from Kelowna’s Lauren Schell on a massive banner being prepared to tonight’s school closing consultation.
The Okanagan-Similkameen School Division (SD53) will attempt to explain to students, parents, teachers and other Osoyoos residents why it needs to close one of the community’s two schools in order to balance its 2016-17 budget.
The presentation will outline the School District’s financial, declining enrolment and facility challenges and details measures the District has undertaken in previous years to respond to budget pressures. It also details opportunities and challenges for 2016/17.
It supports two proposed recommendations:
- Moving forward with the closing of Osoyoos Secondary School and the transfer of students to South Okanagan Secondary School in Oliver, possibly as early as June 30, 2016; or,
- Moving forward with the closing of Osoyoos Elementary School, renovating Osoyoos Secondary to a K-9 school and transferring Grade 10 to 12 students to South Okanagan Secondary School. Osoyoos Elementary School would not be closed until renovations were completed at Osoyoos Secondary School.
JF Launier, who owns JF Customs, welcomed Osoyoos parents to his custom-car building shop Monday evening for a little custom work of their own — preparing protest posters for tonight’s meeting.
“I think this is the most important thing that our community has had to face in 30 years,” he said. “There are a lot of things that happen in a community but when you’re going to take something as fundamentally important as having a school for your children, well, that just destroys families.”
Mr. Launier has four children attending Osoyoos schools. But it’s not just about them he is concerned.
“[A school closing] destroys the community,” he said. “It doesn’t allow other people who want to move to the community to move to the community. It’s hard on business.
“It just affects everyone here.”
Board members and senior administration are scheduled to meet with Osoyoos school staffs at 3 p.m. A meeting with Town of Osoyoos Mayor and Council is scheduled for 4:30.
Osoyoos parents and other residents will see the presentation at 7 p.m.
Additional public meetings are slated for Osoyoos Elementary School on Tuesday, March 8, and at Osoyoos Secondary School on Wednesday, April 6.
Brenda Dorosz, an Osoyoos parent who has made it her mission to galvanize community effort in opposition to the closings, said Osoyoos is ready for a fight.
“We are ready to rumble — figuratively, of course,” Ms. Dorosz said, adding she is hoping between 1,500 and 2,000 people will show up for the meeting this evening.
“Realistically, I think we can expect about 1,000.”
That’s well beyond the posted 790 maximum permissible occupancy load for the OSS gymnasium, the venue for tonight’s session.
It means some residents could be turned away, which could prove as effective a message as those delivered to Board members inside.
The community’s response to the potential school closings has attracted the attention of provincial media; news gathering outlets from Penticton, Kelowna and Vancouver are expected to attend, bringing their cameras with them.
“Global TV is coming this a.m. and will be there when I am allowed in to decorate the gym,” said Ms. Dorosz. “They’ll video us doing that.”
She added Global TV plans to spend the day in the community and will attend tonight’s meeting.
Also expected to deliver messages to the Board are OSS and OES students, representatives from Town of Osoyoos Council, Osoyoos Coyotes owner Randy Bedard and representatives from local business and community groups.
Parents and other concerned Osoyoos residents will also be given an opportunity to express their concerns to the Board. Presentations will be limited to two minutes each.