Buildings trump programs

I’m starting to wonder if the school district trustees (or at least some of them) need to get their hearing checked

I’m starting to wonder if the school district trustees (or at least some of them) need to get their hearing checked.

A few months back, I attended a school district-sponsored town hall meeting, where anyone who was interested could show up and share input and ideas on how the school district should try and deal with its unfortunate fiscal realities, which include the need to cut approximately $1.3 million from its upcoming budget.

The message at the Salmon Arm meeting, which was echoed at both the Armstrong and Enderby forums, was programs over buildings.

That is to say that the message from the constituents of this region was, when push came to shove, people wanted to see programs that directly impact students take precedence over spending money on hydro bills, heating costs and maintenance to keep half-empty schools operating.

That was the message. Programs before buildings.

But some of the trustees didn’t seem to get the memo. This is because at last Tuesday night’s board meeting, a majority of the trustees took an unexpected turn –  and voted to support buildings over programs.

Sure, school closures remain on the table, but not until at least 2017, which is no help at all in dealing with the 2016 financial shortfall. So now that leaves the cuts to come from programs.

And these aren’t little cuts. These are cuts that are could mean days when your kids can’t use the library or pick up an instrument and play in a band. It could mean a student dealing with grief over the loss of a loved one won’t be able to talk to a counsellor. It could mean a child who struggles with a speech impediment won’t get help from a specialist and may have to endure bullying from other kids. It could mean that certified education assistant time is cut back or eliminated, so those students who struggle with literacy or numeracy won’t get extra help.

And that will be for every student in this district, not just those who attend Silver Creek or Armstrong Elementary. These cuts are going to hurt kids.

School trustees and parents at the board meeting, many of whom sported T-shirts in support of keeping Armstrong Elementary open, enthusiastically applauded when students came forward and made presentations. A group of high school students told the board about the difference the Achievement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program has made to their success in high school, while another student spoke of the huge strides she has made in reading through the literacy intervention program.

How about telling those students that those programs might now be cut?

Because those are realities that have to be faced.

There is no School Board Fairy who is going to wave a magic wand and turn up with a new pot of money to magically balance the budget. It is beyond me how some trustees appear not to recognize this reality.

So we’ve asked every trustee to share where they think the cuts should come.

We certainly hope they have some ideas by now/

We think the community has a right to know what losses will be incurred to keep the doors of Silver Creek and Armstrong Elementary open.