Chair defends decision to host school closing meeting in tight venue

Even 15 minutes before the meeting got underway, it was standing room only.

Okanagan-Similkameen School District board chair Marieze Tarr is defending the district’s decision to host an April 6 meeting — where a decision will be made on the fate of Osoyoos schools — in the Osoyoos Community Theatre.

Ms. Tarr says the nature of the meeting requires that it be held in the proper setting.

“The April 6th Board Meeting is a formal business meeting of the Board of Education and needs to be conducted as such,” explained Ms. Tarr in an email to the Osoyoos Daily News.

“All Board Meetings occur in the school board office; however, the Board has made the decision to relocate this business meeting to an Osoyoos venue that respects parent and community interest as well as support[s] the business that needs to take place regarding this very important decision.”

The decision to use the theatre, which seats 264 — with an additional two spaces for wheelchair access — is raising eyebrows in the Osoyoos community.

“I’ve told the School Board we will get 1,000 again,” said Brenda Dorosz, a parent who has marshaled efforts to stop the school closing. “They think I’m crazy.”

She is encouraging anyone interested in the school’s potential closing to attend the meeting, even if it means they might have to wait outside for the verdict.

“People will need to stay put to hear the vote,” she said.

Two previous consultation meetings — the first held in the Osoyoos Secondary School (OSS) gymnasium, the second at the Sonora Centre — each attracted more than 700 parents, students and others interested in board proposals to shutter either OSS or Osoyoos Elementary School to trim operational costs.

A follow-up rally earlier this week at OSS brought a similar number to the pavement in front of the school.

We invited readers to comment on the decision. Here’s a sampling of what they had to say:

“This was discussed with Chairperson Tarr at the March 29 OSS PAC meeting, with several parents present expressing the theatre does not have enough seats. A concern clearly communicated that not having enough space would set a bad tone.”

— JS

“What is [it] going to feel like when you have over 1000 people at your ridiculous excuse for a meeting? We are a polite peaceful group that have led by example to all the children and community, but we want our young people going to school in our community, make no mistake about that. Take us seriously.”

— GH

“When they opted for a venue in Osoyoos so that the community could be present, they purposely choose the Theater due to its small size. Why? Because They don’t actually want the community there, they want to quietly conduct their meeting and make their decision, while claiming they’re being fair.”

— LN

Osoyoos Daily News will attempt to broadcast the April 6 meeting for viewing on our Periscope website (www.periscope.tv/osoyoosnews). Our broadcast will begin at 6:55 p.m., just prior to the meeting’s scheduled start at 7 p.m.

Have your say . . .