A perceived lack of consultation prior to the recent facilities plan decision by School District 83 trustees prompted criticism from Salmon Arm’s director on the Columbia Shuswap Regional District board.
On June 17, two days after North Okanagan School District trustees voted 4-1 to support, in principle, option E5 in the school district’s Long Range Facilities Plan (LRFP), CSRD directors had an opportunity to discuss the plan and share concerns with school board chair Amanda Krebs.
Much of the conversation revolved around two subjects: the possibility of a new high school in Sorrento and the school board’s June 15 vote for E5, which includes transforming Salmon Arm’s Sullivan and Jackson campuses into Grade 9-12 high schools.
Regarding the former, Area E director Rhona Martin asked about plans for a new Salmon Arm school, and suggested if a new high school were built, it would be best suited west of the city.
“I’ve always had a concern about the children that are coming from Area F (North Shuswap), it’s such a long way…,” said Martin. “When you can’t be part of your school community because you have to catch the bus, it really is limiting and a lot of kids find they just cant do it and so they leave. Maybe if the school was a little bit closer to them in an area where the population is really growing, it would kind of kill two birds with one stone.”
Krebs said the school board is supportive of a Sorrento high school, and that it is in the facilities plan, though it has not yet been made part of the school district’s five-year capital plan.
“The tricky part is we have no land yet,” said Krebs.
North and South Shuswap directors Jay Simpson (Area F) and Paul Demenok (Area C) echoed Martin’s concerns. Demenok asked what steps are needed to make a Sorrento high school a reality.
“One of the first steps for sure is getting it on our five-year capital plan because the ministry has to see it for a number of years before they start taking it seriously,” said Krebs. “Mr. (Peter) Jory told us if we already had land, then the ministry looks at it even more seriously. Then you have to show a need, so the more they hear from us, but also all municipalities, that would be better.”
Krebs said she would ask school district staff about partnering with the CSRD on this matter.
Krebs was then addressed by Salmon Arm director, and city councillor, Tim Lavery who, regarding E5, suggested the school board had limited the input of family, parents and students. Lavery said he was left with the impression from the May school board meeting that there would be further consultation regarding Salmon Arm.
“How does that decision from two days ago jive with the impression there would be further consultation,” asked Lavery.
In response, Krebs said questions around the LRFP options at board meetings prior to June 15 were becoming “very operational, which we couldn’t answer.” This, she explained, was why the board voted to support E5 in principle, giving the school district’s working group that will study the option greater flexibility to come up with a plan.
“We added in ‘principle’ to give them flexibility because we do realize there are faults with the plan; I mean there were faults with both options presented,” said Krebs. “So consultation isn’t done. It’s just next time we have it, we’re going to have all those operational questions answered that people have been asking.”
Krebs added that if it looks like E5 is not going to work, staff will bring it back to the board, “and then we might have to start back at the drawing board where we come up with a better plan for one high school instead of two high schools.”
Lavery requested that Krebs ask the school board to consider a motion to pause the facilities planning process so that local governments could be fully consulted.
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