School closures in Penticton, Osoyoos, Summerland trigger protests

Four schools in Summerland, Penticton and Osoyoos could close because of budget deficits this week, including Osoyoos's only secondary school.

Four schools in districts 53 and 67 could close because of budget deficits

Parents and students protest outside the School District 67 office on Tuesday. (Brady Strachan/CBC)

Students and parents are protesting the closing of four public schools in the South Okanagan to eliminate budget deficits.

School District 67 is considering closing Trout Creek Elementary in Summerland, McNicoll Park Middle School and West Bench Elementary School in Penticton; meanwhile, School District 53 is considering closing down the only high school in Osoyoos.

At a rally in Osoyoos on Tuesday, several hundred people gathered in front of the Osoyoos Secondary School to demand that district look into other options.

Parent and business owner Jamie Elder says if the Osoyoos Secondary closes, the town will be crippled.

"We are at risk of going back to being nothing more than a summer tourist destination and a senior citizen town," she said. "The appeal for families will end."

Second rally in Penticton

Another group of parents held a protest in Penticton on Wednesday.

In an interview with Radio West host Audrey McKinnon, Summerland parent and organizer Jeff Plant said he still hopes School District 67 will be able to spare the schools they are considering closing.

"This is a provincewide issue and it's a funding issue," he said. "It's not the fault of the trustees... that they're dealing with a financial problem. All we ask is they seek an option with us that keeps our schools open."

His children attend Trout Creek, and he says the school and its reputation is one reason people move to the area.

Plant alleges that since a public consultation period about the closures ended, new data has emerged that contradicts data School District 67 used when deciding to close the schools.

He says he's hopeful District 67 will listen to parents at a meeting Wednesday night that should decide the fate of their three schools one way or the other.

Meanwhile District 53 will finalize plans for Osoyoos Secondary later this week.

With files from Brady Strachan and Radio West

A second rally was held Tuesday at the School District 53 office. (Brady Strachan/CBC)

To hear the interview with Summerland parent and rally organizer Jeff Plant, click the audio labelled: Parents, students hold rallies in Osoyoos and Penticton over school closures

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story mistakenly said the rally on Tuesday was in front of the school district office. In fact it was in front of Osoyoos Secondary School.
    Mar 30, 2016 8:18 AM PT

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