Parents line up at a forum to oppose the proposed closure of Trout Creek Elementary School in Summerland in January 2016. John Arendt/Black Press file photo

Province releasing results of rural education report ‘shortly’

That follows heated demands from a local MLA, school districts and municipal politicians

The B.C. government says it will be releasing the results of the consultation and findings of the rural education engagement “shortly,” following demands for the report from local governments and school districts.

“We have been confirming we will be releasing these results with media for the last two weeks,” a ministry spokesperson said in an email.

“Last week, (Education) Minister (Rob) Fleming also confirmed to school board chairs in a phone call that the rural schools public consultations and findings will be released on the ministry’s website within the coming weeks.”

Related: School board, MLA want rural education report released

Okanagan-Skaha School District (SD67) Superintendent Wendy Hyer said the district sent the ministry a letter Tuesday morning in part because they hadn’t heard anything from the ministry on the release of the report, saying she heard about the upcoming release through media.

“Otherwise, our district would not even know that they’re releasing parts of it. We haven’t received any information about the report at all,” she said, later clarifying that school district Chairperson Bill Bidlake was out of town and unable to take the call with the minister, which superintendents were not invited to join.

Okanagan-Similkameen School District Chairperson Robert Zandee said in an email that, to his recollection, there were no confirmations of a release.

“They did say they MAY be releasing some of the input that was received. They also said the input was going to be used in the funding review, but we have no way of knowing that. Not without seeing the report,” Zandee wrote.

Related: Penticton and Summerland parents hoping for reversal of school closures

The Western News did not immediately receive a response on a question of whether “releasing the results of the consultation and findings” meant releasing the document in full or through piecemeal releases.

The latter, Hyer said, would be problematic, if it is only released in parts without the context of the document as a whole.

“I guess there’s just concern that they’re going to be using pieces that perhaps are out of context or support a particular decision that they’re making, but nobody knows whether that’s in context or out of context,” she said.

“(Communities) spent a lot of time and energy giving input and feedback around a rural strategy, and they would like to see the strategy and recommendations in full.”

In legislature on Tuesday, Fleming was asked about the review, and said he would be using it for the government’s current education review.

Related: New option for Summerland school closures

“We’re going to use it as a resource for the comprehensive K-12 education review that we have ongoing right now. Understand that the report that’s being referred to was never completed,” Fleming said in the house Tuesday.

“It was not completed when the writ was dropped before the last election, so it’s not a government report. It was not released even during the interregnum in the summer when the government had an opportunity to do so.”

The Rural and Remote Education Review was announced in November 2016 after a crisis in education funding the previous summer led to school closures and threats of closures across the province, including the only secondary school in Osoyoos.

That report was completed in spring 2017, after the writ was dropped, and was to be released that summer, but after government changed hands, that release never came.

Related: Penticton candidates spar on school closures

The report took input from across the province on access to education, and the B.C. government initially said on Tuesday it would be releasing portion of the report — the engagement and input from the communities — which didn’t sit well with Hyer.

Hyer said district officials are already aware of the public input from the SD67 community, but she said it would be valuable to see what other communities have to say about the issue.

“And I know that boards across the province are calling for the release of the document.”


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dustin.godfrey@pentictonwesternnews.com

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