Editor’s Note: The Osoyoos community in January was told by the Okanagan Similkameen School District that one of its schools — either Osoyoos Secondary School or Osoyoos Elementary School — was targeted for closing as part of a district plan to reduce its structural deficit.
Almost immediately, Robin Stille, a former educator with experience teaching on Haida Gwaii and in the Okanagan Similkameen School District, took it upon herself to conduct an analysis of the information delivered by district administration to its School Board. She included numerous questions, requesting Board response.
This week, the Osoyoos Daily News will provide segments of that analysis, including the questions posed and responses published by the School District.
By initiating a consultation process to close a school in Osoyoos without any prior warning, the School Board has sucker-punched an entire community.
Although the School Board has been talking of deficits and of the need for fiscal restraint for a while, it did not suggest that it was considering closing schools until the shocking revelation at the Special Regular Meeting on January 13, 2016.
Indeed, at its December 9, 2015, Board meeting, the School Board approved Capital Bylaw No. 127036 in order to access $271,000 of funding for a new infrastructure project at one of the schools it now recommends to close.
A school closure should be the last worst-option to be considered. All ramifications, not just possible savings, should be considered. The impact of a school closure on a community is devastating.
An alarm should have been sounded in the fall (or better yet last spring) to allow for a judicious and transparent consultation process. The School Board should have approached community leaders throughout the district about the possibility of school closures in order to provide all communities with an opportunity to offer other viable cost-savings solutions.
The closing of Osoyoos Elementary School — a red herring
After South Okanagan Secondary School, Osoyoos Elementary School (OSE) is in the best condition of all buildings in the district. It is therefore ludicrous to propose closing this school. This recommendation was included to make the closing of Osoyoos Secondary School (OSS) more palatable to the community.
If this recommendation was serious, then the $4.765 million of “identified” facility upgrades for OSS would be included among the challenges for moving the elementary school to OSS, especially if these upgrades need to occur over the next five years as presented by the Board Office.
Nevertheless, if closure of OSE is indeed a serious recommendation, then perhaps the Board Office can explain the major renovation costs of $600,000 required at OSS to facilitate the move.
Questions to be addressed:
- What do these $600,000 in renovations entail?
- Do these renovations address any of the $4.765 million of “identified” facility upgrades required at OSS?
- What are these “identified” facility upgrades?
- What is the breakdown of costs for the $4.765 million of “identified” facility upgrades required at OSS?
Published Board Response: The $600,000 is to renovate the school to accommodate K-9 students. The $4.765 million is for capital systems upgrades that will be required regardless of the structure of the school if it remains open.