Ecole Puntledge Park Elementary School could close to save $700,000 a year.
Faced with a $2.3million budget shortfall for the 2016/2017 school year the Comox Valley School District will decide tonight whether to close Ecole Puntledge Park Elementary School as part of it cost-saving measures.
“It’s exceedingly challenging for us. It’s certainly not something that any particular trustee signs up to do as part of this particular enterprise” said School District 71 Board Chair Tom Weber in an interview with CHEK News.
Closing the school, which is over 50 years old, would save the district about $700,000.00 a year.
Students would be moved to nearby Lake Trail Middle School which would require renovating to accommodate elementary-aged students.
“I went to this school when I was a child and when my daughter was born we bought a home in this area and moved from Vancouver so she could attend this school” said Katherine Tinmouth who is fighting to keep the school open.
“We feel that this is one of our best schools and to lose it would be a real tragedy and I really feel as though if this school is closed there’s a danger that it will be sold into the private system and we’ll never get it back” she added.
“This school is just an absolute gem. You look around around us, we’ve got trees all around us, we’ve got a salmon bearing stream right here. For an education facility for elementary students it doesn’t get any better than this” said parent Joel Mortyn.
Roughly $1 million of the budget shortfall comes from unfunded increases to CUPE staff and another $1 million is lost with declining enrolment.
However parents say it is ironic because if closed, Puntledge park is one school that’s almost full, currently at 96% of capacity.
NDP MLA and education critic Rob Fleming visited Ecole Puntledge Park and spoke to concerned parents.
He says the funding model for education in BC is flawed.
“I think the budget speaks to the misplaced priorities of the Liberals. They had $230million in there for tax cuts for millionaires and a $54million cut for public education. You know something is wrong in the province of British Columbia when we’re failing to invest in our kids” Fleming told CHEK News.
A decision on Puntledge will be made at tonight’s regular scheduled board of education meeting.