The Town of Osoyoos, accompanied by several parents in the Osoyoos community, has filed a petition with the Supreme Court of British Columbia, asking it to quash a recent decision to close Osoyoos Secondary School.
The petition was filed in Vancouver yesterday afternoon. It is accompanied by various affidavits.
The action comes less than a week after the Okanagan Similkameen School District Board of Trustees voted 4-3 on a third reading to pass a bylaw closing Osoyoos Secondary effective June 30.
Specifically, the petition requests the Court provide:
- An order pursuant to the Judicial Review Procedure Act, RSBC 1996, c. 241 that the decision, by motion of the Respondent on April 6, 2016, to close the Osoyoos Secondary School, be quashed;
- An order that the School Closure Bylaw 2016-01 regarding the Osoyoos Secondary School, passed by the Respondent on Apri1 27, 2016, be quashed;
- A series of injunctions delaying the closure of Osoyoos Secondary School for a period of not less than one year; and,
- Additional relief, including costs for the application.
The petition calls the school closing process “irregular” and “contrary to the Board’s own closure policy” and alleges Trustees had “already resolved to initiate the process for closing Osoyoos Secondary at an in camera meeting held December 9, 2015.”
“By the time of the public meetings, the Board had already approved ‘recommendations’ which had been debated and considered in camera, prior to any public consultation process being commenced,” the document reads.
It also questions the consultation process that followed in February and March — what it calls “a highly compressed timeframe” — and contends is was “inadequate and unreasonable.”
“[T]he District’s own conduct shows the unreasonable and compressed time frame which it imposed on all other participants in the process,” the petition contends.
“Prior to April 27, 2016, and notwithstanding that no bylaw was yet enacted to close Osoyoos Secondary, the Board took administrative steps during the week of April 19, 2016 to enroll all of the students of Osoyoos Secondary in a different school.”
The petition points to “the importance of the decision being made, the number of individuals being affected, and the potential impact of the decision on both the Town of Osoyoos and the individual students and parents living in it.”
The petition also makes reference to the impact the decision will have on various communities within Osoyoos that could be more adversely affected by the school’s closing, including special needs students, and the large Punjabi community in and around Osoyoos.
“The District and its Board failed to respond in a meaningful way, or at all, to specific concerns raised by parents concerning the difficulty that busing would create for students with learning and other disabilities,” it reads.
It also notes “[a]pproximately 40% of the students at Osoyoos Secondary are part of the local Punjabi-speaking community, many of whose adult members have limited capacity in English.
“The Board made no effort to have any kind of translation services available, or other means by which members of the Punjabi-speaking community could participate,” it contends.
“A local resident, fluent in both Punjabi and English, took it upon herself to communicate with Punjabi-speaking parents in a local Sikh temple, to explain the process to members of the Punjabi-speaking community.”
According to Town of Osoyoos CAO Barry Romanko, the School District received a copy of the filed petition yesterday afternoon.
The School District has 21 days to reply to the petition.
B.C.’s Supreme Court has jurisdiction to provide a judicial review of administrative action undertaken in the province. It has the authority to overturn any decision that it determines is arbitrary, biased, or unreasonable.