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Adult education program faces the axe

Bobbi Johnson - Observer file photo
Bobbi Johnson
— image credit: Observer file photo

School District #83’s adult continuing education programs are facing a complete closure in July.

The board of education was to consider a motion at Tuesday night’s regular meeting to close all continuing education programs in Salmon Arm, Enderby, Sicamous and Armstrong. The decision took place after the Observer’s press time.

The motion to shut down the adult programs comes as the school district faces another budget process where it will be required to make $1.8 million in cuts to operations. As it stands, the continuing education program is being run at a deficit of $119,108.

Most of the students in the program do not take full course loads, so the enrolment is counted in the total number of courses, explains Wendy Woodhurst, the school district’s director of instruction. For example ,Salmon Arm had 14 active courses, Sicamous had eight, Enderby had 40 and Armstrong had 39 courses active.

Last year, trustees opted to scale back the level of service and hoped the service would become more widely used, rather than close the programs completely. But student enrolment has not increased, and the program continue to operate at a significant loss.

“When you are facing the kind of deficit we are facing, you need to look at every option you can to save money,” says Bobbi Johnson, school board chair. “These are not easy choices.”

While adult students in Salmon Arm have an adult education program at Okanagan College, students from the smaller communities like Sicamous will have more of a struggle to upgrade their education.

“It’s the outlying areas that will feel this the most, and not everyone can get into Salmon Arm for the courses there,” says Johnson.

While some of the adult education programs operate out of the Salmon Arm Storefront School, Woodhurst stresses the Storefront option for school-aged children is not being closed.

“We do not want people to think that shutting down Storefront is what is on the table. This (motion) is only affecting our adult continuing education offerings.”

Johnson says in a time of such severe budgetary restrictions, she believes resources need to be directed into the kindergarten to Grade 12 programs.

“As a trustee, I’d rather not cut literacy and other programs that work at an early age to improve the chances of success as children move through the K to 12 system, rather than put money into the catching up at the other end, much as I’d love to help everyone.”

Johnson says program closures can be an unfortunate reality of balancing budgets.

“If I was a parent, I would be writing letters to the government asking them to take a serious look at things about the education system that we can’t afford to lose.”

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