Eleven portables currently make up classroom space for 46 per cent of the students at Rutland Middle School, which was built in 1949 and is now significantly more expensive to operate and maintain than other schools in the district. (File photo)

Engaging public advocacy to counter Central Okanagan school enrolment crisis

Board of education invites community to help convince ministry of education to fund urgently neecded capital school projects

Central Okanagan Public Schools want to add a lot more voices in support of the board of education’s call for additional school funding to meet an upward spiking student enrolment.

With overcrowding becoming a dominant issue facing many schools across the district, school administrative staff have developed, at the board’s request, the means for the community to play a larger advocacy role in convincing the province to provide more capital project funding for Central Okanagan public schools.

The advocacy effort was unveiled at Wednesday’s board of education meeting, with the first video outlining the need and benefits to replacing the aging Rutland Middle School showcased, how the community can use social media to advocate on the school district’s behalf, and what projects are specifically in need of funding.

This new community advocacy effort was borne initially from the frustration of trying to get Rutland Middle School replaced for the past 15 years, now coupled with senior secondary schools expected to be beyond student enrolment capacity within the next five years.

The campaign officially kicks off on the school district website today (April 15), with a new banner created to help drive the public to the information sources behind this initiative.

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Besides utilizing the Twitter #TogetherWeBuilt hashtag and other social media options – email, Facebook, Instagram – to send messages of support on behalf of the school district to the ministry of education, information on what are considered the immediate high priority projects will be outlined with discussion points and benefit analysis on single-page information sheets.

Besides replacing Rutland Middle School with a new 900-student middle school on the Quigley Elementary property at a cost of $58.5 million, other projects outlined as urgently need are an addition to Constable Neil Bruce Middle ($13 million), addition to École Dr. Knox Middle ($20 million), École Glenmore Elementary replacement ($40 million), new Glenmore Secondary ($127 million), new elementary school in Wilden ($37 million) and the new Westside Secondary ($110 million).

So far, the ministry has allotted funding only for the property acquisition for the new Westside Secondary.

Trustees expressed their excitement about enlisting the public to turn up the heat on the education minister and ministry administrative staff to see more Central Okanagan School District capital project needs be funded.

“The pressure to do something doesn’t rest with us,” said trustee Norah Bowman. “We are in support of these projects, the pressure needs to go upwards.”

Trustee Chantelle Desrosiers said while social media has its place, she suggested not to overlook an ‘old school’ concept such as sending post cards with personal messages from parents, students and community supporters to reinforce the point.

“If you get thousands of post cards landing on someone’s desk, that person will pay attention…it is time for us to use this campaign to put on a full court press. And there is just not one way to do that, there are multiple ways,” Desrosiers said.

Trustee Lee-Ann Tiede echoed Desrosiers’ sentiments, saying post cards with personal messages of advocacy would be impactful for ministry officials to see and read.

“Although I think I am the youngest trustee I am old school myself,” added trustee Amy Geistlinger. “I like the idea of multiple avenues of advocacy.”