In 2016, the Okanagan Skaha School Board closed McNicoll Park Middle School in Penticton. While this year’s school board budget is tight, trustees do not expect the topic of school closures to arise. (Black Press file photo)

Okanagan Skaha School Board does not anticipate closures

School district budget tight as a result of declining enrolment

The Okanagan Skaha School Board is operating on a tight budget for this year, with a deficit of roughly $39,000 on its amended budget of $60 million, but the board is not considering closing individual schools as a cost-cutting measure.

“The discussion of closing schools wasn’t a topic that is remotely being considered,” said James Palanio, chair of the school board.

School boards are required to have balanced budgets. If the budget does not balance, then cuts to programs and even school closures could be considered.

Palanio said the tight budget was the result of fewer children in the school system. The school district unexpectedly lost 109 students this year, reducing the amount of funding the district will receive from the province.

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There are around 5,900 students in the school district, from Summerland, Naramata, Kaleden and Penticton.

While school closures have not been discussed at the board table this year, the topic has been brought up only a few years ago.

In the spring of 2016, three schools in the Okanagan Skaha School District were slated to close. The three were Trout Creek Elementary School in Summerland, West Bench Elementary School near Penticton and McNicoll Park Middle School in Penticton.

The decision was in an attempt balance the books, as the school district of the day was expecting to see a $1.025 million shortfall.

In June of that year, the Rural Education Enhancement was announced, and as a result, the school district applied for and received the funding to keep Trout Creek and West Bench open, while McNicoll Park was closed.

Linda Van Alphen, a Summerland school trustee who was also on the school board in 2016, said she does not expect further discussions about school closures.

“We’ve taken care of the budget and adjusted,” she said.

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