As Osoyoos secondary students went back to class this morning in their own community, the Town of Osoyoos was talking about doing a little educating of its own.
Council met with Boundary-Similkameen MLA Linda Larson and let her know it would like to meet with Premier Christy Clark and Education Minister Mike Bernier when members attend Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) sessions later this month.
Council was both looking for answers and wanting to provide feedback in a “broad sweeping type of discussion on the whole of what happened with the school closure,” Town Administrator Barry Romanko told Ms Larson.
That discussion, he said, would include a review of the process and regulation “that enabled this particular situation to occur” and the providing of more information on a funding program that’s going to keep the school open for at least two more years.
But Council also wants the provincial government to take a look at the School Act and “renovate” the process by which a school is closed — specifically the mechanics of the consultation process and the vote required.
“Right now it is a simple majority,” Mr. Romanko reminded Ms Larson. “The sense of Council is that that needs to be reviewed to perhaps two-thirds majority or some other number that will not pit communities against each other.
“A simple majority simply does not work.”
Last spring, both Osoyoos trustees voted to keep Osoyoos Secondary School open. They were out-numbered, however, by four trustees located in three other communities voting to close the school.
Although an initial vote went against Osoyoos Secondary, the decision to close it was reversed when the provincial government provided additional funding in late June.
Council also wants to talk about the “role of schools boards and how they communicate with municipal governments.”
Mayor Sue McKortoff noted the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, within which the Okanagan Similkameen School District is contained, also has this issue on its agenda.
She also said other communities and school boards across B.C. are facing similar issues and suggested the province could learn from the Osoyoos experience.
“We really feel that the way this school and this town reacted — the businesses, the parents, the teachers, the kids, the town leaders — that really urged (the additional funding and review) on,” Mayor McKortoff said.
“This is why the request is so important.”
Ms Larson, in fact, told Council the community’s linking of the school closing to its economy was a substantial factor in the provincial review of its funding position.
She promised Council she would go back to Victoria with a request for additional time with the Premier and Minister Bernier beyond the usual 15 minutes allotted.