Kelowna schools to take students from defunct private school

With Summerland-based Glenfir School closing, the Central Okanagan School District expects to taking on new students post-spring break.

  • Thu Mar 17th, 2011 11:00am
  • News

Local schools will welcome students “with open arms” from an elite private school in Summerland, which appears to have gone under without notice, the Central Okanagan School District’s superintendent says.

As schools closed for business in Kelowna Thursday, Superintendent Hugh Gloster confirmed he had only learned mid-afternoon that Summerland-based Glenfir School would shut its doors permanently at the end of school today, and said he had already received calls from two parents looking for spaces.

“We’re just starting to hear from parents now, but we’re anticipating we will be hearing from more over the spring break,” said Gloster, noting he was still looking for information on what had happened.

The superintendent said the school district considers finding the displaced students a means of carrying on with their education part of its responsibility and would welcome, with open arms, any student needing placement.

Glenfir issued a press release on Thursday in which the head of the school, Craig Dunbar, announced the closure would occur the next day and be permanent, barring angel investment.

Dunbar cited declining enrolment and a poor economic climate for the demise of the 18-year-old school.

At its peak in the early 2000s, the kindergarten-through-Grade 12 school had an average of 175 students; but with only 76 students today, including 34 from the Kelowna area, Dunbar said they simply do not have the money to continue operating the facility, which also employs 18 staff members.

“Our final teaching day will be Friday, Mar. 18, after which time all of the students will go on spring break. Unfortunately, we will not be able to re‐open the school again,” he said.

While administrators at the school had suspected closure was coming over the past couple of months, they had hoped to stretch it out until the end of the regular school year.

“We tried, at all costs, to avert this time of year as opposed to June. That was our biggest obstacle to overcome and, unfortunately, it became larger than we anticipated,” Dunbar said. “It makes for a difficult jolt to our families, our community and ultimately to the kids.”

Wendy Hyer, superintendent for the Okanagan Skaha School District, said she found out about the impending closure Wednesday morning and the district was working with Dunbar and parents of Glenfir students to make the transition as smooth as possible.

“It’s an emotional time for the folks who have discovered they no longer have a school to go to,” said Hyer. “I know we’ve already had a few kids that have gone to Pen High to register. We’ll accommodate them as best we can.

“It’s unfortunate for Glenfir, but we certainly welcome the opportunity to entice them back into the public education system,” she said.

Staff, families and students were said to have been notified earlier in the week of the impending closure.

Dunbar said there is little chance the school will be able to reopen its doors after spring break, though he hasn’t given up hope entirely.

“We will continue to hope for some small miracle that allows us to open our doors on April 4 allowing our students to return to their school,” said Dunbar, adding that if anyone has such a miracle to offer, he encourages them to contact him at  250-494-0004 or cdunbar@glenfir.com.

jsmith@kelownacapnews, with files from Steve Kidd, Penticton Western News