Several issues face Central Okanagan trustees, parents as school resumes

Changes coming as board meetings move back to in-person setting

Plexiglass dividers will provide separation for trustees at the Central Okanagan Board of Education meetings. (File photo)

Plexiglass dividers will provide separation for trustees at the Central Okanagan Board of Education meetings. (File photo)

Central Okanagan Board of Education and committee meetings will return to in-person meetings with some modifications, says board chair Moyra Baxter.

Baxter said the plan back in June was to return to public meetings in September, but that was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic’s fourth wave taking hold in the Central Okanagan leading to changes to public health restrictions imposed by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry earlier this month.

Baxter said she did request that plexiglass dividers be installed at the board table so individual trustees don’t have to wear a mask during meetings.

But to meet public health restrictions, there will be limited space for the public to attend meetings, so people who wish to attend must pre-register by contacting the Central Okanagan Public Schools secretary-treasurer’s office at 250-470-3216 or email Secretary.Treasurer@sd23.bc.ca by noon the day of a meeting.

Those who attend must also wear a mask.

If the demand for attendance exceeds the available seating space, the meetings will be opened up to Zoom online but there will be no ability for online viewers to directly participate or submit comments.

Another issue may be the comfort zone regarding people being vaccinated or not for those who attend or make presentations at board and committee meetings under the in-person resumption.

“We have not discussed that yet as a board and I am not sure at this point how the other trustees feel about that,” Baxter said.

She added as vaccination is not mandatory for school students or staff, as the school district will continue to encourage the school community to get the jab.

Meanwhile, the board of education and parents will be facing a multitude of other issues when school board and committee meetings resume in September.

Public consultation timelines will be ratified by the board for catchment area reviews for both Westside and Okanagan-Mission school areas, in response to spiking enrolment issues.

For Okanagan-Mission, it is anticipated Bellevue Creek Elementary, which has been leased out by the school district and used as a daycare facility, will be brought back online as an elementary school come the 2022-23 school year.

“Those are two big ones, huge issues that need to be addressed, ” said Baxter of the catchment area reviews.

How French Immersion (FI) can be delivered to all Westside students in Westside schools will also be up for discussion moving forward in the aftermath of the board of education deciding to repurpose École George Pringle Elementary as the new secondary school site.

That means relocating lower grade FI students from Pringle to other locations, possibly Hudson Road and/or Glenrosa Elementary schools, while Westside FI students attending École Kelowna Secondary still face being moved from an overcrowded KSS to a less overcrowded Mount Boucherie Secondary.

Baxter noted the school district submitted its decision to repurpose Pringle as the new secondary school, considered the top funding capital priority by the ministry of education, but there has been no funding announcement forthcoming as of yet from the ministry.

Confirmation of that will move a secondary school for Glenmore as the new school capital funding with a site already in mind at the former location of École Dr. Knox Middle adjacent to the Apple Bowl, which the school district shares ownership of with the City of Kelowna, and the Parkinson recreation fields.

The Glenmore and Westside high schools were two of seven school upgrade projects outlined in a campaign launched by the school district last spring to encourage support from local public education stakeholders to lobby the ministry for funding support.

Those other capital projects include upgrades to Constable Neil Bruce Middle and École Dr. Knox Middle; replacement of Rutland Middle and École Glenmore Elementary; and a new elementary for Wilden.

Last spring, the school district confirmed the acquisition of a site to house the new Wilden elementary school, while a new solution for replacing RMS offers a new school potentially being built at the Quigley Elementary site, considered large enough to house both schools.

At one time, the school district was pushing a proposal to repurpose Quigley Elementary as the new RMS, and shift the students to other surrounding elementary schools, but ministry officials vetoed that move based on ministry policy not to shut down existing schools except for safety reasons.

“That has been part of the problem with RMS. We all know about the shortcomings of school building with the lack of washrooms and number of portables, but it is still a safe school to attend,” Baxter said.

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READ MORE: Central Okanagan French Immersions faces school space squeeze

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