Friday, April 20, 2007

Update: No feasible, concrete plans?

According School District 67 chair Larry Little, as quoted in an article on Page A4 of The Herald on 19 April, 2007, "In spite of the number of comments and concerns being raised, no person or group has come up with a feasible and concrete plan to save the [gym]."

Mr. Little goes on to deny that there is a shortage of gym space in Penticton: "While some letters to the board and local newspaper write about the need for having the additional gym space in the community, Little pointed out there is gym space in the currently available not being used. 'We have elementary school, we have another secondary school here in Princess Margaret and we also have middle schools,' he said. 'A lot of time these facilities are not being used, they're not utilized on a weekend...that space is available.' Little says the school board encourages those looking for space to phone the school district or check in with the community centre to inquire what facilities are available."

My editorial comments:

First, it appears that Mr. Little has forgotten about the meeting with the City of Penticton in which the mayor expressed an interest in saving both buildings as community facilities (this meeting is also referenced in the the school board minutes—item 6)

Second, I cannot agree with Mr. Little's assertions about excess gym capacity. SONG members have consulted with several employees of the city's parks and recreation department and we have heard a consistent message: demand for the gym space exceeds capacity. Perhaps the source of the discrepancy between Mr. Little and those who actually schedule gym-based programs has arisen because the school board considers gym time and space to be fungible. That is, they assume that one hour in the Uplands Elementary School gym on a Sunday morning is interchangeable with one hour in the Pen-Hi gym on a Wednesday evening. As many have already pointed out, and I have argued in a previous posting, the Pen-Hi gym is a unique space. That it sits empty in non-prime-time hours is not really the point—time and place matter. The school buses that Mr. Little appears to hold in such high regard are also empty on Sunday mornings, but I do not see the school board sending all the "excess" buses to the crusher. Now that I think of it, the average utilization of our fire trucks seems low too...

In addition, the school board seems to think that demand occurs in a vacuum. It does not. Demand is a function of price, which is a function of supply. Increase the supply of gym space, make it easier for both the city's parks and rec department and community groups to schedule events, and demand that we never imagined will materialize (see induced demand). It is sort of like, "Build it and they will come." Except, in this case, it is already built.

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