A motion to rescind the decision to close two elementary schools was put forward by a trustee at Monday’s School District 67 meeting.
After hearing information from parents of Trout Creek students on a proposal they are calling the Summerland Solution that would incorporate the Montessori School, trustee Bruce Johnson made a motion to rescind both the closure of Trout Creek and West Bench elementary schools.
“Often when you make a decision you make it with good cause with the information you have. When you get new information added then it’s not a sign of weaknesses to look at the new information,” said Johnson, who included he sees the new information as a package for both schools that is why he put the motion to rescind together.
Trustees agreed to ensure due diligence as they needed time to review the information and the motion will now come back for discussion at the next school board meeting on May 9 at 6:30 p.m., however during that time they would continue with the planning stages for closure.
“As it was voted to close the doors at Trout Creek school, another door opened. A new and innovative idea started to take shape,” said Meghan Steele, a parent who was presenting the Summerland Solution. “Trustee (Shelley) Clarke said she would be the first to open the door if we brought her new students. We are willing to bring you a school full.”
Steele, along with two other parents who spoke at the board meeting on Monday, said by merging Trout Creek with the publicly funded Montessori Program of Choice, it has the potential of leaving the school district in the black.
According to the numbers parents provided, some of which were questioned by trustees who said the assumptions and estimations needed more investigation, the school board would not have a target cutback of $1.2 million, rather they would be left with a surplus. They said this would be the result of small community grants, bringing in new students, teacher pension premium reductions, the potential of Ecolé Entre Lac leasing McNicoll Park Middle School, which is slated for closure June 30 and other additional avenues to bring in money.
The biggest benefit of this model, said Steele, is that the Montessori School is already fully operational, including all supplies, and has existing students from kindergarten to Grade 5. She suggested the transition could be implemented by September 2016. Steele said support is rolling in regarding the Summerland Solution since the trustees decision last month to close Trout Creek and reconfigure the schools to accommodate the elementary-aged children.
“Over the last two weeks I have attended PAC meetings, meetings with various people within the school and parents and have helped out in the classrooms. I have seen grown men in tears. I have seen principals that are overwhelmed with the amount of difficulties that are facing them with the re-configuration. I see children every day that are asking why it is closing, we don’t want it to close, we love our school. It is painful to look at their little faces and the Band-Aid gets ripped off everyday as a teacher said,” said Steele.
The parents said there are already 12 districts in the Lower Mainland and other throughout B.C. that have had success with a similar model.
Chair Linda Van Alphen said they would need time with the 42-page Summerland Solution proposal and because it is new information they would revisit it at the next meeting in May. At that time Johnson’s motion to rescind closure of both West Bench and Trout Creek will also be voted on.
If it is voted down, trustees learned that a motion could be brought forward to solely rescind the closure of just Trout Creek or another motion to rescind just West Bench. Should that happen, the notice of motion to rescind would have to be put forward to the May board meeting.
Alternatively, if the board decides to vote on the new motion to rescind on just Trout Creek or just West Bench during the April meeting then two-thirds (five out of seven trustees) would have to vote in favour of the motion for it to pass. A simple majority would be needed for the motion to rescind to pass if it is taken into the May meeting.
The school board said they have already started work to provide a smooth transition for students whose schools are going to close. Wendy Hyer, superintendent, said letters have been sent out to all parents whose children will be impacted, bus routes are being reviewed and conversations with principals, vice-principal, teachers and CUPE workers have started. Hyer said Carmi and West Bench have already organized a variety of activities for the two schools, parent visits and tours. Similar transition meetings are also being organized at all the Summerland schools.
Budget meetings for the Okanagan-Skaha School District are set to begin April 27 at 6:30 p.m.