Several dozen people with placards welcomed Osoyoos Secondary School (OSS) students back to their school Tuesday morning and celebrated that the school was again open.
Among those welcoming the students were MP Richard Cannings, MLA Linda Larson, Mayor Sue McKortoff, Coun. Jim King and school trustee June Harrington, along with numerous others from the Osoyoos community.
Some honked horns and cheered.
“We’re just happy to be back,” said student Sarah Launier, who was one of many students who worked hard to save the school.
“I’m super duper excited,” she said. “I didn’t want to go to Oliver.”
From mid-January to the end of June, OSS was threatened with closure and the plan was to bus Osoyoos students to Southern Okanagan Secondary School in Oliver.
On June 30, the day OSS was scheduled to close, MLA Larson announced $490,000 in provincial funding to save the school and committed to funding the school on an ongoing basis.
“Community and government need to work together to make these things happen and we did,” said Larson. “Consequently the school is still here and hopefully for many years to come.”
Harrington, the only school board trustee to consistently support keeping OSS open, said she was excited to welcome the students back.
“I’m so happy for them and so glad they’re back at their school,” she said.
Brenda Dorosz, who led the fight to save OSS as chair of the Save Our Schools committee and Osoyoos Independent School society, was also involved in organizing Tuesday’s rally.
“This is a fantastic day for our whole community,” she said. “We’ve waited for a long time to stand here and cheer our kids back to school.”
MP Cannings stressed the importance of schools like OSS to communities.
“I’m so glad people of Osoyoos rallied to keep the school open because without it, it’s very difficult to keep young families coming to this town,” he said. “That’s what keeps towns going is young families.”
Mayor McKortoff expressed a similar view.
“We’re just delighted,” she said. “We want people to continue to move here, put their kids in school here and realize that this is Canada’s warmest welcome.”
Jamie Elder, owner of the Unity Osoyoos clothing store, was also an organizer of the rally. He made giant plywood letters saying “OPEN” that were placed at the top of the hill approaching the school.
Elder said the idea of the rally was to celebrate the positive side because of much of the earlier community effort had been a negative – fighting the school closure.
“This day would feel so opposite if the school did indeed close,” he said. “We should celebrate the fact that isn’t happening.”
Student Kaden Zakall, in grade 8, was impressed by the welcome.
“It felt nice because it shows that the community cares so much about the school,” he said.