This year 103 students attended the public Sun Peaks Elementary School from kindergarten to grade seven and another 29 students filled the high school run by the Sun Peaks Education Society (SPES).

Next year 12 students have already been pre-registered for kindergarten and more are expected to arrive by September.

This kind of growth isn’t unusual for the school. Since its inception in 2010, the school has seen more families move to the resort each year, many attracted to the idea of their children taking the magic carpet to class and spending hours skiing each year. In 2015, for example, around 30 new students enrolled.

For Caroline Thompson and her family the school was a bonus.

“We moved here for a season and when we found out there was a school we were so surprised and so excited,” Caroline said.

A few years later, with one child enrolled and another soon to be, Thompson sits on the board of directors for SPES, ran for trustee for School District 73 last year and is an outspoken advocate for students and the school.

One of her focuses has been working to relieve the stress of crowded classrooms and upgrade other spaces and resources.

Joining her are other parents like Yolanda Dye, elementary school PAC chair, and Maria Cannon, President of SPES.

Last year the elementary school was placed fifth on the capital funding list in School District 73 (SD73). The list acts as a tool for the district to tell the province which projects or schools in their area are priorities. This year’s list will be released mid-June.

“Our capital list that we submit in June is a wishlist of projects we’d like to see funded but the ultimate decision comes down to the board of education,” said Kathleen Karpuk, chair of the SD73 board. “They pick the best ones.”

Being placed on the list was a big step forward in the eyes of Cannon.

“Since the beginning it’s been a step-by-step process,” she said. “It’s been partnerships, community building, strategic planning. It takes constant work and effort with all of the parts involved.”

Dye said a recent presentation to the district was focused on showing growth and expected enrollment in an effort to get the school on the list.

“The steady incline for growth has been constant,” she said. “And constant enough and steady enough that they’ve had to look at the catchment area.”

“New kids need a Sun Peaks address or if an older sibling attends the younger sibling can,” added Thompson.

Despite cracking down on enforcing the catchment area students and parents have faced other challenges.

Thompson pointed to a lack of auxiliary breakout space as causing difficulties.

Backpacks hang in a portable at Sun Peaks Elementary school. Photo SPIN

“It’s a small space with varying ages, hormones, varying characters and being in close quarters is a challenge…in elementary a lot of kids have various characters or behaviours.”

Without offices, a library, a multipurpose room or extra spaces, activities like one-on-one reading sessions take place in a mixed use lunch and locker room to the side of a classroom.

Currently the school is made of four portables. Two under one roof house the kindergarten-one and four-five classrooms, a principal’s office, teacher work space and a lunch room area. Two seperate portables just above the others house the remaining students. Five full-time teachers, one part-time teacher, two certified education assistants and a principal make up the staff.

 

When thinking of the future, Dye, Thompson and Cannon agreed on what they’d like to see in a dream scenario.

“A K-to-12 school plus a library, gym, auxiliary space and community space,” Cannon said. “Something that makes sense for a smaller community is multipurpose space.”

“A school, playground, any venue that brings people together will always become a community focal point,” Thompson agreed.

Those goals align with what SD73 would like to see in the community eventually—a permanent school.

Lelilani Ortner works in her classroom at Sun Peaks. Photo SPIN

“We’d actually like to see a new school there,” Karpuk said. “We’ve created a short-term committee to address short-term over capacity issues to get something in place as fast as we can. We’re also looking at a steering committee to come up with what a long-term school could look like at Sun Peaks.”

But when the next capital list is released Sun Peaks may not be in fourth place despite one school ahead of them in Kamloops receiving funding.

“This coming year we can say we have one new school priority and one expansion priority. Not just one top school.” Karpuk explained. “So not necessarily in fourth, it could change as we reassess.”

While waiting for the decision the Sun Peaks parents are staying positive.

“We’ve come so far in such a short amount of time,” Dye said.

“We’re being mindful for what we have and are so grateful for our successes and to be able to continue this journey,” Cannon added.

“We’re really trying to find a long-term vision and a long term solution for this school,” Karpuk said. “We don’t want to keep doing temporary fixes, it’s more than a school for the community, it’s a real asset.”

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