By Dean Midyette
There have been reports swirling in the provincial media over the last few weeks in certain school districts about proposed school closures and mismanagement of district funds amid calls of chronic underfunding for public education.
Lets remember that school boards are legally bound to table balanced budgets. Failure to do so results in the firing of the trustees by the Minister of Education who would then appoint a trustee to oversee operations until the next election cycle.
The Vancouver School Board is facing a massive deficit of $27.2 million for the 2016/17 school year. Proposed cuts include, but are not limited to, elementary music programs and special education programs. Trustees in School District 53 have voted to close the only high school in Osoyoos and have the students bussed to nearby Oliver. School District 67 in the South Okanagan is considering closing three schools in Summerland and Penticton. The Richmond School Board is considering closing at least five schools and has shortlisted 16 schools that will be considered. Other Boards across the province are also considering closures.
In the North Okanagan-Shuswap district, three trustees have resigned shortly after it was discovered that over $10 million over the last five years had been diverted from the operations budget to the capital budget, most of which was used to build the new school board offices.
Closer to home, our local Board has voted to shutter the Field Elementary School at the end of the school year, the ninth school closure in the district since 2001. Field currently has three students and would have had only one student registered next September. While a school closure is always a blow to the community it serves, this decision was a difficult but correct one.
The trustees and administration of School District #6 need to be commended for their fiscal prudence. Lets hope that the school closure in Field is the last we have to endure for years to come.