While most students in the Penticton area were not in the classroom Tuesday, for several hundred others, it was back to the books.
Kids at the city’s three faith-based schools, as well as the Outma Sqilx’w Cultural School on the Penticton Indian Reserve, were all back in class this week.
Although Outma is open to all children and was still accepting late registrations as of Tuesday, none of the independents were reporting a jump in enrolment numbers.
“We mostly cater to our local band population but it is available to everyone,” said band Coun. Joseph Pierre who was at the school Tuesday. “During summer time we had about 20 register but it was mostly band members.
Outma is federally funded through an agreement with the province, the Canadian government and First Nations education committees.
Students are taught to the provincial curriculum, according to Pierre.
While the facility can accommodate about 120 students, the current numbers range between 70 and 80 annually from junior kindergarten to Grade 8.
Faye Arcand, who attended Tuesday’s protest on Main Street in Penticton, said the idea of sending her child to an independent school crossed her mind over the weekend.
“If Glenfir were (still) here, I would go and I would pay those thousands of dollars and enrol,” she said, referring to the independent school in Summerland that closed its doors in 2011.
There is one other independent school in that community, Summerland Montessori School, which has a staff of about 10 and as of 2013 a enrolment of just over 20.
Over at Penticton Christian School, principal Karl Boehmer said there had been some interest resulting from the public school labour unrest.
“Frankly the situation has brought in a few people to find out about the school and get more information but have we received anybody because of the situation in the school system? I don’t think so,” said Boehmer, who used to work in the public school system. “We don’t wish for the labour unrest to continue, it doesn’t help anybody. I feel for our colleagues in the system that are not right now earning an income and at the same time the students, they should be receiving the instruction.
“Providing adequate education these days is not easy, money’s tight everywhere.”
Penticton Christian has about 80 students, seven teachers, three special education assistants and two administrative staff.
“Honestly, if we have somebody who comes in and enquires and wants us to educate their child, we will find a way to make it happen,” said the principal.