Thank you Osoyoos Times for doing the legwork on this one. Click here to learn more.
Mike Bernier, B.C. Minister of Education
The following was submitted as a letter to the editor by Education Minister Mike Bernier:
Letter to the Osoyoos Times:
Closing a school is a difficult decision for a school district and a community. No matter what, there is an impact. I know these challenges having faced them because of declining enrolments in my community.
I just wanted to clarify on the point from your May 3 editorial that suggested I should overturn the board of education’s decision to close Osoyoos Secondary School. I understand why there is that desire, but it is not a possibility under the School Act.
The Act clearly provides boards of education with authority to make decisions about school closures. Contrary to misinformation being spread by NDP critic Rob Fleming, there is nothing in the Act that would authorize me to overturn or otherwise interfere with these decisions. It’s unfortunate at this emotional time that incorrect assertions are being made.
The sections quoted in your editorial simply allow me to make orders setting out the process by which schools may be closed. There is one such order in place, which requires boards to engage in a public consultation process prior to making the decision to close a school.
I understand the concerns that parents and community members have expressed. MLA Linda Larson has done a great job of keeping me informed on this issue speaking to me daily when we see each other at the Legislature. She has expressed her concerns and shared heartfelt stories from the community. MLA Larson also respects the roles and responsibilities of the elected school board.
It is my hope that the community can find a way forward together and ensure the needs of all students are met.
Editor’s note: The relevant sections of the School Act appear below:
Establishment and closure of schools
73 (1) A board may
(a) subject to the orders of the minister, open, close or reopen a school permanently or for a specified period of time, and…
Jurisdiction of minister
168 (2) The minister may make orders for the purpose of carrying out any of the minister’s powers, duties or functions under this Act and, without restriction, may make orders
(p) respecting the opening and closing of schools under section 73 (1) (a),