The Central Okanagan school board has decided to move forward and make a decision on a catchment area change for the District of Lake Country early next month, despite some strong words from the school board chair.
Close to 80 people packed into a school board committee meeting on Wednesday in Kelowna, where the district’s planning and facilities committee voted to send a recommendation for changing Lake Country catchment areas to the regular school board meeting Feb. 11.
The committee voted two-to-one to send the recommendation to the board meeting despite a plea from school board chair Moyra Baxter who said the entire process has been flawed.
“I think we made a mistake,” said Baxter. “We have used a process that is flawed. I think what we should have done is hold one of these meetings where everyone gets up and says what they think and listen to other people. Lake Country is a great community and it’s terrible that we have parts of the community pitted against each other.”
In what was an emotional meeting, a few parents and community members were even brought to tears when trying to express themselves. A large group of parents from the Lakes Subdivision in Lake Country showed up at the meeting to demand that their children not be sent to Oyama elementary school instead of their current school at Davidson Road.
Of the three Lake Country elementary schools, Davidson Road is above capacity while Peter Greer and Oyama Traditional are both currently under capacity. Parent after parent from the Lakes stood up to voice opposition to their children traveling to Oyama for elementary school.
They submitted a petition of 270 signatures to the committee and broke out in applause when it appeared their kids would not be on the table to be moved.
With many saying they wouldn’t send their kids to Oyama, longtime Oyama resident Allan Gatzke made an emotional plea to the community.
“Five generations of my family went to school in Oyama,” said Gatzke, holding back tears. “We hear concern about someone from the Lakes or Woodsdale Road coming to Oyama and I would like to (tell) those people that it’s not a bad thing. The quality of education, especially when endorsed by a strong community, has value that is sometimes missed when you are just talking logistics. (To the committee) I encourage you to consider the viability of that community out there.”
As school board chair, Baxter asked for the entire process be delayed to allow trustees to properly study the information and make a proper decision. Her plea fell on deaf ears and the committee voted to accept a staff recommendation and ask for a final vote on the issue at the regular board meeting.
If passed, the recommendation would send students from Woodsdale Road to Oyama with kids from parts of the Southwest area of Lake Country to Peter Greer. Students in the Lakes would remain in the Davidson Road catchment area.
The school board will hold a final vote on the issue at its regular meeting Feb. 11, 2015.