As noted in my update to the grant proposal, I was caught off-guard by the Board of Education's dismissal of the RDOS offer. I assumed this was going to proceed in a very straightforward way:
- A rural school will not be considered for closure if it has a ~$150K grant
- The RDOS can raise such a grant for West Bench Elementary
- West Bench Elementary will not be considered for closure
The central premise is (1): rural schools with large grants are automatically exempted from consideration for closure. As noted elsewhere, I based this on information provided by SD67 (see below). There may be other issues at play. But note that Naramata and Kaleden schools were never considered in any depth for closure so these other issues have never been surfaced. The existence of the grant was sufficient, at least according to the public documents provided by SD67.
Because of this, I have requested that the Board of Education reconsider their decision to blow-off the RDOS proposal. My letter to Chair Van Alphen is included below (with a few typos fixed).
Subject: Re: Proposed operating grant for West Bench Elementary
Date: Thu, 31 Mar 2016 11:25:24 -0700
From: Michael Brydon <email@example.com>
Organisation: Regional District of the Okanagan Similkameen
CC:firstname.lastname@example.org, Manning, Ginny <email@example.com>, Bill Newell <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Dan Ashton <email@example.com>, Bill Bidlake (firstname.lastname@example.org) <email@example.com>
I was unable to attend last night's SD67 meeting due to coaching commitments. But my understanding from reading media reports and talking to constituents who did attend is that the proposal for a grant from the RDOS was not seriously considered by the Board of Education. I find this surprising and disappointing since the potential loss of a ~$150K grant has been--according to materials provided by SD67--the critical issue in the Board of Education's treatment of rural schools. For example, the following is from he document distributed to the public at the 26 October, 2015, information session ( http://sd67.bc.ca/media/Challenge_Plans/October%2026%20Presentation%20Ha... p. 16 -- highlighting added):
Based on what I can tell, three rural schools in SD67 face roughly the same challenges in terms of enrollment and facility condition. However, the availability of outside funding means that two of the schools (Naramata and Kaleden) were not considered for closure. The purpose of the RDOS grant is to put West Bench Elementary School on the same footing as Naramata and Kaleden schools--that is, to remove it from consideration outright. The failure of the Board of Education to do this strikes me as inconsistent.
As you certainly recognize, the stakes in this closure decision are very high. The West Bench neighborhoods--with large lots and large houses--were designed for families. A boarded-up elementary school makes the West Bench neighborhoods less desirable for families considering the area. Thus, the large cohort of baby boomers that currently lives on the West Bench will face less demand for their homes at precisely the moment that they are looking to downsize. Just a fraction of a percent drop in the market value of homes on the West Bench leads to losses that dwarf these grants. It is not just kids that will be hurt by the closure of West Bench Elementary, but every property owner in these neighborhoods. Not surprisingly, West Bench residents are looking for a solution.
For this reason I ask for reconsideration of the Board's decision. After all, the RDOS grant proposal represents a significant new piece of information.