The Okanagan Skaha School District is negotiating an agreement allowing the RDOS to make use of West Bench Elementary to offer community recreation outside of school hours. File graphic

New use for school after hours

The regional district wants to offer community recreation through West Bench Elementary

West Bench residents may soon have expanded recreational activities in their community.

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameenapproached the Okanagan Skaha School District asking for access to West Bench Elementary, and at a special board meeting this week, the school board gave the go ahead for staff to start negotiations.

Superintendent Wendy Hyer said the RDOS was essentially asking for access to the school’s gym and playing field to offer some community recreational activities. It’s a developing concept to expand recreation in the smaller communities.

They are hoping to use the gym over the summertime, but we won’t be able to negotiate and agreement that quickly,” said Hyer, adding that the school board’s decision was that if the RDOS wanted to make use of West Bench Elementary, they would have to do so under the existing policy on use of schools by outside groups, which includes a rate for community groups.

In the meantime, Hyer said SD67 staff would be working with the RDOS to develop an agreement. At the minimum, she said, the deal would have to recover any costs to SD67 for use of the facility.

“If they are using electricity, if we have to have a custodian out to open the building and to clean up … the fee structure would cover the cost,” said Hyer. “We shouldn’t be using educational dollars to fund community recreation programs.”

The school would only be available when classes aren’t in session, basically after hours or weekends. Hyer said the concept is a good one, putting the building to use rather than leaving it empty or having the community build another space.

“As long as it is not costing the school district anything, it makes great sense to use a building that is there,” said Hyer.

There are a number of details to work out, including where needed equipment would come from.

“From a district perspective, we can’t tell schools to share their equipment, and if the equipment gets worn out, who is replacing it, that sort of thing,” said Hyer, noting Parent Advisory Committees do a lot of work raising money to buy equipment for student use.

“There are a few little logistical things that need to be worked out, but we are confident that will happen,” said Hyer.