British Columbia

New B.C. education fund announced to keep rural schools from closing

The province has announced new funding to keep rural schools open outside of Greater Victoria, Metro Vancouver, and Kelowna.

Premier Christy Clark says rural schools are integral to their communities

Nine rural schools across B.C. were at risk of closing because of lack of funding. (Tom Woodward/Flickr Creative Commons)

The province announced new funding on Wednesday to keep rural schools open outside of Greater Victoria, Metro Vancouver, and Kelowna.

"This is ongoing funding. This is not just to keep a school open for a year," B.C. Education Minister Bernier said of the new Rural Education Enhancement Fund.

Parents, teachers and community leaders in small towns across B.C. have criticized the province as school districts say they lack the funding to keep schools from shutting their doors. 

The province listed nine schools that would be eligible for the new funding, including schools in Summerland, Quesnel and Campbell River that were on the chopping block, as was the only high school in Osoyoos

"The whole point of this is to be able to look at unique circumstances, like Osoyoos, so they will have the option now and the ability to apply for the funds to keep that school open," said Bernier. 

B.C. Premier Christy Clark said the province recognizes how important schools are for rural communities.

"Closing the only high school or elementary school in a rural community has a large impact on that local economy," Clark said in a written statement.

"With Canada's strongest economy it's important that we make sure the benefits are shared by rural communities throughout our province to ensure they have the infrastructure they need to grow, attract talent, and provide critical services like health care." 

News comes as a surprise

Okanagan-Similkameen school board chair Marieze Tarr said the news came as a surprise.

"We're very, very grateful that the ministry is realizing that something needs to be done," Tarr said.

But she warned it's too early to commit to keeping the Osoyoos Secondary School open. Tarr said she wants more details about the funding and plans to meet soon with the board.

With files from Brady Strachan