Board cuts adult education program

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

School District #83’s adult continuing education programs will be shut down as of July.

Despite a last plea from an adult education instructor, school trustees lamented the loss, but voted unanimously Tuesday night to discontinue the programs, which operate in Salmon Arm, Enderby, Armstrong and Sicamous.

The motion to shut down the adult programs was made as trustees head into another budget process where they will be required to make $1.8 million in cuts to operations. As it stands now, the continuing education program is being operated at a deficit of $119,108.

Last year, trustees opted to scale back the level of service for continuing education and hoped the service would become more widely used, rather than close the programs completely. This year, however, the student enrolment has not increased.

Salmon Arm continuing education instructor Vivian Morris noted the Ministry of Education does not adequately fund this type of program, but encouraged trustees not to cut the service completely.

“Leave a kernel of continuing ed, so maybe one day it can grow again, rather than do away with it entirely,” she told the board, speaking of the significant challenges often faced by adult students and also the remarkable successes that can be made in people’s lives through the program. “I thought I would come and make you feel guilty.”

But trustees, a couple of whom had tears in their eyes, said they believed it better to cut adult education rather than look at reductions to the school-aged programs, especially the early literacy interventions.

“It makes me sick that programs like (adult education) are not funded… but this is money we don’t have and it has to come from somewhere. We need to invest the limited funds we have into those programs that are going to help kids have a successful school career and hope that we end up with fewer adults who don’t make it through the system,” said North Shuswap trustee Holly Overgaard.

Armstrong trustee Bob Fowler was in attendance when the Gateway program was established for adult education in Armstrong.

“It seems shameful that we are going to be dismantling that. I don’t want to vote for this, I think it is sad, even though I know there is no money for this,” he said.

While adult students in Salmon Arm have other options to finish high school, including an adult education program at Okanagan College, students from smaller communities like Sicamous will have more of a struggle to try and upgrade their education.

While some of the adult education programs operated out of the so-called Storefront schools in the region, Wendy Woodhurst, director of instruction for the school district,  stresses the Storefront education 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.”

Salmon Arm’s Storefront School operates out of the Downtown Activity Centre.

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