Trustees wary about boozy school rentals

Okanagan Skaha school board chairman Bruce Johnson - SUbmitted
Okanagan Skaha school board chairman Bruce Johnson
— image credit: SUbmitted

School trustees are wary about routinely allowing booze at functions hosted by private groups that rent local education facilities.

“In my mind, it should be an exception,” Trustee Tracy St. Claire said Monday at a committee meeting where board members of the Okanagan Skaha School District discussed a new policy on facility rentals.

Staff told the committee that booze has been allowed only twice before at school facilities: during a wine-and-cheese reception that was part of Penticton Secondary School’s 100th anniversary celebration in 2012; and for the Pentastic Hot Jazz Festival.

Alcohol is more frequently served at functions at the Shatford Centre or Centre Stage Theatre, but those sites, attached to schools, are covered by separate joint-use or lease agreements.

Due in part to concerns raised by St. Claire, anyone hoping to have booze at events at rented school facilities will now likely need advance permission from trustees.

“It’s such a rare occurrence, I think we should bring it back to the board,” said Trustee Shelley Clarke, who supported the amendment to the rental policy.

School board chairman Trustee Bruce Johnson also convinced colleagues to amend the proposed rate structure contained in the new policy.

At present, a for-profit group hosting a youth sports camp pays $19 an hour to rent a large gym. That cost would have gone up to $65 an hour under the first draft of the policy.

“We’ll put them out of business,” Johnson said of camp operators who would be affected by the increase.

He also noted that the school district is in the business of serving youth using public facilities, and pricing out families wouldn’t square with that philosophy.

“They’re not really our schools,” said Johnson. “They’re the community’s schools. They pay for them.

“I would hate to see all those activities close down because people can’t afford to do it.”

The amended policy will go the full board for preliminary approval at its May 12 meeting, and will then be sent to various partner groups, like parent advisory councils, prior to expected adoption in June and enactment in July.

Secretary-treasurer Bonne Roller Routley said creation of the rental rules took two years and “essentially takes what we’ve been doing in practice and puts it in policy.”






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