Closure of Oyama school concern for local trustee

Deb Butler wants to see the school remain open; meeting to discuss options today at 4:30 p.m. changes venue to due expected parent turnout.

There are fears that Oyama could ultimately lose its elementary school if boundaries are adjusted.

The Central Okanagan School District is currently reviewing catchment areas for the three elementary schools in Lake Country. And while it calls for some additional students to shift to Oyama Traditional, trustee Deb Butler insists it won’t be sufficient to keep enrolment steady long-term.

“Even by moving those kids, we could still see Oyama school tank based on the district’s figures,” she said.

There are currently 100 students at Oyama Traditional and district administration is proposing taking some students from Peter Greer Elementary and sending them to Oyama.

But after Grade 7 students leave Oyama to go to George Elliot Secondary School, Butler says administration’s model may only provide Oyama with 100 to 120 students—far below the capacity of 130 (not including portables).

“Bringing those kids in is just maintaining things, it’s not increasing that number,” she said.

“Running under capacity is just a disaster. The writing is on the wall (closure).”

Butler, who lives in Oyama, regrets convincing parents to let their Grade 7 students leave Oyama Traditional and go to GESS.

“We agreed to a middle school because it wasn’t  supposed to impact our existing school,” she said, adding that she is also concerned about the district’s suggestion that a new elementary school could eventually be built elsewhere in Lake Country to accommodate future growth.

“If we get a new school at the south end, that will mean the end of Oyama.”

Instead of the current administration proposal, Butler wants students from the Lakes development at the north end of Winfield moved to Oyama. That could potentially lead up to 112 more students over time.

“That would keep Oyama a vibrant and viable school and take pressure off Davidson Road and Peter Greer schools so they can handle the growth in the south,” she said.

Butler admits, though, that her plan isn’t popular with some Lakes parents.

“They are driving their kids to Davidson but they would be bused to Oyama. It’s 10 kilometres.”

Butler is urging residents who want the Lakes students moved to Oyama Traditional to attend a school district committee meeting today at 4:30 p.m  in Kelowna. The meeting was originally scheduled for the board office but has been moved to the Hollywood Road Education Services (Room 1) facility, 1040 Hollywood Road South, in Kelowna.

The venue change was made in response to the anticipated parent turnout for the two items on the planning and facilities committee meeting agenda — timing of the Rutland grade configuration change and Lake Country elementary school catchment area review.

Residents can also sign a petition Thursday, from 3 to 8 p.m., at Oyama Traditional, Oyama General Store and the Oyama Community Hall.

School district officials defend their current proposal to take some students from the south end of Wood Lake and send them to Oyama.

“Hopefully it will result in some increase in school enrolment. The school is currently under-utilized,” said Larry Paul, secretary-treasurer.

“We are looking at the best way to normalize the catchment areas. We are not shrinking Oyama’s catchment area, we are making it larger.”

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