Ashton Creek mother campaigns to keep school open

Crystal Cunningham launches petition asking North Okanagan-Shuswap School District not to close Ashton Creek Elementary School...

An Ashton Creek resident is trying to save her community’s school.

Crystal Cunningham has launched a petition asking the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District not to close Ashton Creek Elementary.

“Who would want to move their family here or start a family if they have to bus their kids into town?” she said.

The district has suggested the school could shut down Aug. 1 because of shrinking enrolment. Students would then be transported to M.V. Beattie Elementary in Enderby.

While Enderby is 10 kilometres away from Ashton Creek school, Cunningham says many students live some distance away from the school.

“When Kingfisher school closed (in the 1990s), they were sent to Ashton Creek and that’s an hour drive by bus,” she said, adding that such a trip is extremely difficult for children in the primary grades.

Cunningham also believes the one-on-one instruction and family-like atmosphere benefits the children and she uses her daughter as an example.

“She went from a student that is shy to being in the Grade 7 leadership and babysitting. I swear it’s the school that did this,” said Cunningham.

Ashton Creek had 90 students in 2006 but there’s currently 33 students in two, four-grade split classrooms.

However, Cunningham says closure is premature because the population will increase.

“I know of at least 10 people who will have kids starting kindergarten in 2014,” she said.

The petition is available at the Ashton Creek Store as well as numerous sites in Enderby — Kal Tire, Enderby Autobody, Gilbert Parts Depot, Central Hardware and Enderby Pharmacy.

“There are quite a few signatures,” said Cunningham.

School district officials are not aware of the petition or a campaign to keep the school open.

“I haven’t heard that you can’t close it,” said trustee Chris Coers, adding that the possibility of closure has been around for some time.

“No one was surprised about us considering closure because there have been frank discussions about four-way class splits.”

The district will hold a public input meeting Feb. 29 at 7 p.m. at Ashton Creek School.

“We want to connect with people who have something to share,” said Coers.

If people can’t make it to the meeting, they can also provide written comments on the school district website — www.sd83.bc.ca