Beginning Tuesday, Grade 8 to 11 students attending Osoyoos Secondary School are scheduled to attend orientation sessions at South Okanagan Secondary School in Oliver in preparation for amalgamating the two schools into one by next September.
Similar sessions are scheduled for Osoyoos parents.
OSS administration, working with SOSS administration, has scheduled the sessions this week during school hours with the purported goal of alleviating “some of the anxiety and questions students and parents may have about moving to SOSS.”
While such a plan seems reasonable on the surface, there are issues with the timing of the orientations — issues the School District might well consider before it moves forward.
First, there’s no guarantee Osoyoos students will be getting on the bus next week when they’re summoned.
The mood in the Osoyoos community is such that any gain the district might have realized with parents beginning to ponder the benefits of sending their children to Oliver — and that’s not a given — will almost certainly be lost.
The missive and its timing could be read as callous and impatient and send parents back to being upset all over again.
Second, those annoyed Osoyoos parents might resist the student-only orientation as nothing more than an effort to indoctrinate their minor children while they’re beyond their reach.
There’s a reason minors are unable to enter into contracts and otherwise generally enjoy legal protection. It would not be inappropriate for Osoyoos parents to demand the right to attend the orientation session with their child rather than be shuttled to the parent-friendly sessions.
Third, the process puts trustees, who still have a third reading to pass before the school is closed, in a bit of a tight spot.
If, as the SD53 administration proclaimed when the process started, this is all about saving money, a tangible indication this week that few OSS students will be attending SOSS next year — at a potential loss of up to $500,000 in revenue — has to give it pause as they move forward.
To do otherwise would prove them to be improvident stewards of the public purse.
Finally, if the intent of the visits is driven by deadlines — meaning the district and SOSS need all the time they can muster to make for a smooth transition — this latest action will be additional evidence for any legal action that might challenge the Osoyoos school closing process.
The district has already admitted it is facing a tight deadline to resolve collective agreement issues involved with the school’s closing and subsequent relocation of most — but not all — of the OSS staff to Oliver.
If the closing was so well thought out, it might be argued, why do administrators have to rush to make it happen?
The district says it is in the best interests of students to immediately begin plans for the transition. With so much attending risk; however, we wonder if such an action is in the best interests of the district.