The Town of Osoyoos has delivered a letter to the Okanagan Similkameen School District board encouraging a collaborative effort to rescue an Osoyoos school from closing.
The letter comes as the School District (SD53) contemplates closing one of the community’s two schools — either Osoyoos Secondary School (OSS) of Osoyoos Elementary School (OES) as it deals with a structural deficit expected to balloon to $1.4 million by 2018.
“I must start by saying that the financial situation presented by SD#53 is extremely disturbing and viewed as a challenge that needs to be addressed in a collaborative manner that extends beyond the suggestions provided by SD53,” reads the letter signed by Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff.
“Council consistently heard that SD53’s current financial situation needed “out of the box” solutions,” it continues. “Council and the Osoyoos community are of the opinion that the proposed solution is an “in the box” solution and is squarely at the bottom of the box.”
The letter then suggests that rather than finding a way to cut $1,000,000 from its budget, the School District needs to be engaged in the exercise of “working with our regional constituency to provide the best education possible in their home communities within resources provided.”
Mayor McKortoff then highlights seven issues Osoyoos Council — and by extension the Osoyoos community — has with the “current proposals to close Osoyoos schools and move Osoyoos children to new learning environments.”
Among those issues:
- A lack of recognition of the academic and cultural successes of OSS and a reliance on unsubstantiated proposals for increasing course offerings in the South Okanagan Secondary School environment;
- A lack of consideration for the negative impacts increased travel would have on student learning and personal growth;
- A lack of consideration for the economic and social damage that would be inflicted on Osoyoos with the school’s closing;
- A lack of review of other steps the school district could undertake to meet budget targets without closing Osoyoos Secondary School;
- The appearance that a larger South Okanagan Secondary School in Oliver was constructed with the intention of closing OSS and moving students to a single high school;
- Ineffective consultation by the School District in Osoyoos and other SD53 communities;
- The painting of a “bleak financial picture” for the district but no accurate information on how closing OSS would resolve that problem; and,
- The lack of information on how the budget deficit was going to be solved over the next three years. The financial information provided was a partial one-year plan with no business plan forecast that would illustrate a real added value of closing OSS.
The letter closes with a request for SD53 to delay closing an Osoyoos school and look for a regional solution to resolve the district’s financial difficulties.
“Council is committed to working with SD53; however, it is the opinion of Council that a regional school funding problem must have a regional solution – not a made in Osoyoos only solution,” the letter concludes.
The school board and senior administration will return to Osoyoos on March 8 to report on the public input so far and to offer another opportunity to address the board.
The board will decide what to do regarding the recommendations at its April 6 meeting.
In the meantime, Osoyoos Council plans to send representatives to Victoria to directly address the issue with the education minister.
You can read a copy of the original letter here.