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Okanagan-Skaha school restructuring plan generates questions

Public asks for clarification on transportation, catchment areas and proposed closures
A proposal before the Okanagan Skaha School Board calls for closing two elementary schools in Penticton and one in Summerland. The three middle schools would be converted to elementary schools. (Black Press file photo)

As the Okanagan-Skaha School Board moves towards a restructuring of its schools, trustees are considering questions and feedback from the public, but no significant changes are being made right now.

The plan, announced in late January, calls for the closure of two elementary schools in Penticton and one in Summerland. The district’s three middle schools would be converted into elementary schools as part of a shift to only having elementary and secondary schools.

For students in Penticton, elementary schools would house Kindergarten to Grade 7 children, with the city’s two high schools accommodating those from Grade 8 to Grade 12. In Summerland, the two elementary schools would have students from Kindergarten to Grade 6, while the high school would have Grades 7 to 12.

In Summerland, the two elementary schools are both currently full, but the middle and high schools are significantly below capacity.

The proposal calls for moving Giant’s Head Elementary School students to the building now used as Summerland Middle School. This move would relieve some of the pressures on the elementary schools.

The school district says overcrowding in schools is not expected to be a problem in Summerland or Penticton once the transition is completed.

READ ALSO: School closures proposed for Summerland and Penticton

READ ALSO: Public input gathered about Summerland and Penticton school closures proposal

Since the proposal was announced, the school board has held community engagement sessions in Summerland and Penticton with board inservices held later to review the community input received.

At present, questions raised from the public in Penticton and Summerland has included details about transportation, school catchment areas and the transition involved in the restructuring.

The transition is expected to take place over a three-year period, with the new model fully in place for the 2026 to 2027 school year.

The reason for the restructuring is declining enrolment.

For the present school year, the school district has an enrolment of 5,741 students. That represents a decrease of 36 per cent since 2001.

In Penticton, schools are at 82 per cent of capacity, while in Summerland, the schools are at 69 per cent of capacity. The school district is anticipating minimal growth over then next 10 years.

The Ministry of Education and Child Care’s facilities guidelines identify 95 per cent as a usage target.

Closing the three schools is expected to bring about anticipated annual operational savings of $1.5 to $2 million between savings in utilities, reduction in staffing, reduction in facilities maintenance costs and economies of scale.

The public engagement period will end on April 5 and a board inservice is planned for April 8 to review the community input.

Feedback is accepted online at

On April 10, a special board meeting will be held to review the recommendations. A motion to adopt the recommended facilities plan is expected at this meeting.

John Arendt

About the Author: John Arendt

John Arendt has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years. He has a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Journalism degree from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.
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