North Okanagan-Shuswap trustees are under a lot of pressure to make the finances balance, but a decision to hold off potentially closing Armstrong Elementary was the right move.
Allowing the consultation process to continue until April 2017 means that all residents of Armstrong-Spallumcheen, as well as municipal and business leaders, can be fully involved in the discussion instead of the very tight window that the previous 60-day process allowed.
The other positive aspect is the board’s decision to establish a task force to review demographic information, school configurations and catchment areas in Armstrong,
This will provide an opportunity for those in the community to look at all of the factors the school district considers when closing a school, including what it costs to run a school, building occupancy and enrolment for the short and long-term.
Perhaps through this process, fresh ideas can be considered that possibly leads to all schools in Armstrong remaining open. One concept already being tossed around is establishing French immersion for students currently in class in Vernon or Salmon Arm.
Task forces have previously been held elsewhere in the school district so one has to wonder why one wasn’t established earlier in Armstrong.
Schools are such an integral part of any community and it’s incumbent on school districts to take every measure possible to ensure parents and residents feel they were consulted properly.
Yes the lack of school closures means there won’t be cost savings the district can put towards a $1.3 million shortfall, but that, unfortunately, is the price of transparency and openness.