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More Lake Country elementary kids than open seats for 2013 school year

Central Okanagan School District board member Deb Butler in front of Davidson Road Elementary, where an influx of young kids entering the school system will mean many in Davidson
Central Okanagan School District board member Deb Butler in front of Davidson Road Elementary, where an influx of young kids entering the school system will mean many in Davidson's catchment area will have to attend school elsewhere.
— image credit: Kevin Parnell

When Deb Butler first moved to Oyama nearly 20 years ago there was a movement underway to close down schools in Lake Country due to declining enrolment.

With her children entering the school system, Butler got involved with Parent Advisory Councils at different Lake Country schools as well as at the district level and fought, alongside other parents, trying to keep schools open.

"The whole time we were fighting to keep schools open we were saying 'the kids are coming'," she recalled last week, in an interview with the Lake Country Calendar. "Now they are coming and we have a different problem."

The problem now is there are more kids about to enter the school system than there are spaces available, specifically at Davidson Road Elementary.

Butler is still involved in the battle for kids and schools in Lake Country but is now in her first term as a School District board member, elected by the public to represent Lake Country at the board table.

The district is predicting there will be at least 30 more kids registering for Davidson Road Elementary this fall than the school can currently handle.

"We are going to see a big push of elementary kids and we will need to find space for them," said Butler. "We want to work together and hopefully find the best solution that everybody can buy into."

The district had floated the idea of moving Grade 7's into George Elliot and turning the high school into a Grade 7 to 12 school. That plan was shelved after a big outcry from parent groups. Now the district has decided to form a focus group to study the situation and come up with the best way to handle it by September of 2014. In the meantime the 30 extra kids that enter the school system this fall and fall under Davidson Road's catchment area will be bussed to Peter Greer Elementary.

Parents, teachers, school board members and staff will enter into discussions to try to find the best approach to dealing with an influx of kids including moving kids in Grades 6, 7, and 8 into a middle school, revising catchment areas or placing students in portables.

"It's a huge decision for Lake Country," said Butler. "As a board we support the middle school concept so personally I think if we support that then we need to look to the middle school concept. Any change, even positive change, can fracture a community so it's important that the community feels a part of the process and the solution. This gives us time to decide what is the best way to go to deal with these extra kids moving into the school system."

Registration for the 2013-14 school session opened on Feb. 4 and parents are expected to lineup to make sure their child can go to school at Davidson Road. It's the first time in the history of elementary schools in Lake Country that was expected to happen. The district has a set of priorities that ranks each school child when it comes to placing them. If two children are ranked in the same category, the deciding factor of who goes where will be who registered first.

Butler says it's a complete change from decades ago.

"For all my years of fighting to keep schools open it's a positive that we have too many kids but it's not necessarily the best situation for families that want to get into their home school," she said. "I'm really hopeful next year we can come up with some solutions that everybody is happy with."

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