To the editor:
At a Feb. 28, 2018 School Board meeting, our elected trustees voted in favour (5 to 2) of a staged grade reconfiguration in West Kelowna and Peachland, effective Sept. 2018. Prior to this vote, two committee meetings were held where the district provided six different options to address space issues, with the district’s preferred option being the staged grade reconfiguration. Numerous community members spoke at each meeting, raising extremely valid questions and concerns about the implications of a rushed implementation, the staged reconfiguration and the impact of the pressure and overloading at the single West Kelowna high school (MBSS), which will now likely reach absolute capacity within five to seven years.
Many of the questions raised by the community remain unanswered. As well, the school district staff and elected board both acknowledge the lack of transparency, consultation and communication directly contradicts the school district’s own policy. Despite this, and the admittance this was the first meeting discussing this at a board level, the elected board went ahead with a vote on the recommendation to implement changes effective Sept 2018. In reality, this elected board spent more time last year deciding on a name for the new middle school in the mission, than they did discussing a change that impacts thousands of students, families and teachers.
As a parent I am extremely frustrated. I do not believe this board did their due diligence before going ahead with this vote. They did next to nothing to address the very real, very valid concerns raised by members of the public. In fact, the public appear to have investigated and applied more critical thinking to the matter than the trustees voting on it.
Moving forward, it is time to hold the school district and trustees accountable, to require them to prove the cost savings used to justify this decision for 2018, as well as demand the five year and 10 year cost and enrolment projections. There needs to be discussions and development of rational permanent solutions for Westside schools. There is an urgent need to pressure all levels of government to address the now looming maximum capacity at MBSS, as Superintendent Kaardal admits there is no contingency plan, should provincial funding for a new school not come before maximum capacity is reached.
In the fall, there will be another election for school board trustees. Our current board of trustees discussed and decided against the need for more proportional representation on the Westside at a board meeting last year. I believe it is particularly important to remember that when it’s time to cast your ballot.
Sara Neukomm, West Kelowna
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