While Lake Country elementary schools are facing an enrolment crisis, the Central Okanagan School District is unable to agree on a long-term solution.
Trustees engaged in a lengthy discussion Wednesday about the issue, but could ultimately only agree not to make an unpopular decision.
While the school district administration has led a lengthy campaign to convince school parents and trustees on the merits of introducing Grade 7 students into George Elliot Secondary School to alleviate the enrolment stress at the three elementary schools, Lake Country parent advisory councils for those elementary schools have advocated against that idea, questioning the research numbers the school district projects for future enrolment.
At Wednesday’s meeting, school district administrator Hugh Gloster said staff will pursue whatever option the board agrees to, but noted that he is opposed to adding portables to Davidson Road Elementary, the school facing the most immediate enrolment overcrowding issues, due to a lack of space for the buildings themselves and the facility resources to accommodate the extra students, and that it is board policy not to pull students enrolled out of one school and place them in another.
He noted that all catchment revision or student relocation efforts would be focused on incoming new students to any school in the area.
The resolution brought forward by the planning and facilities committee recommended that portables be placed at the elementary schools with a long-term plan to advocate the ministry of education for funding to build a new middle school; and manage elementary school growth through revision of catchment areas and redirection of students
Board chairperson Rollie Cacchioni added an amendment that parents of Grade 6 students be given the option of enrolling their children in Grade 7 at either George Elliot Secondary or their elementary school in September 2014.
But the board ultimately defeated all those resolutions, agreeing instead to manage enrolment in elementary schools for the next year while engaging in more discussion about the potential for Grade 7s to be absorbed at George Elliot.
Holding up a thick binder full of comments from parents on admitting Grade 7s to George Elliot next September, Gloster told the board he doubted public opinion will change much by seeking more parental input.
“We will certainly engage in that process but I think we won’t find a lot of different opinion from what we already have,” said Gloster, noting that many parents put a lot of thought and research into their comments.
“I don’t think that we will find a great deal more support for the school within a school concept while the board is delaying a tough decision for another year.”
He said the school district can probably manage for the next two years as there is classroom space at Peter Greer Elementary, which may come at the cost of moving the existing pre-school somewhere else, but the situation at Davidson Road will reach a crisis point within three years.
Deb Butler, the Lake Country trustee, said she is not convinced that the education ministry will see the need for both a middle school and secondary school in her community.
“I think we have to look at this issue in a meaningful way, and the fact is we may never see a middle school here,” Butler said.