02/14/2013 11:06 EST | Updated 04/16/2013 05:12 EDT

Cowichan school district eyes closures in wake of deficit

Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley School District is preparing to close between three and six schools this summer to balance next year's budget.

The district is projecting a $3.7-million deficit and provincial law demands balanced budgets.

But critics say the cuts shouldn’t be made without an elected board at the helm. The district's lone trustee was appointed by the provincial government last year after the former board submitted a deficit budget.

Liz Compton, president of the parent advisory council at Somenos Rural Traditional Elementary, worries about decisions being made by an appointed trustee.

"All these huge ramifications around the district without community members on the board,” she said.

But trustee Mike McKay says the cuts can't wait until a new board is elected in November.

“There isn't an elected board in place right now,” he said.

“What I do know is decisions delayed dig the hole deeper and the tough decisions will have to be made and they will be made through a consultative process."

He says the interests of students will be put first first.

"If you put on the table two choices — programs and services being one choice, and facilities being another — I know what we have to do."

Eden Haythornthwaite, the former school board chair who was replaced by McKay, says $2 million will have to be cut from programs and services even if schools are closed.

"We've closed 10 schools in the district since 2000,” she said. “Do you really think it's helped our budget?"

The public consultations begin on March 2.