The school bell is ringing at Sun Peaks again for the third year, and although it’ll be business as usual for the students, big changes to the centre took place over the summer months.
The Kamloops-Thompson school board voted on August 27 to adopt the centre’s kindergarten through Grade 5 as a publicly funded community school.
“It’s a very exciting time for Sun Peaks now that the board approved establishing a community school in Sun Peaks,” says Sun Peaks Education Society (SPES) director Maria Cannon. “(School District 73 will) provide the full-time teaching staff as well as the administration, the principal, the secretarial staff which will be centred from Rayleigh.”
Grades 6 through 12 will continue to operate under the district’s distributed learning program,
“We’ll still continue with the upper grades with the distance learning program for them, so we’ll still need community support for them, but it’s certainly going to be a significant relief on the fundraising side,” explains Sun Peaks’ Mayor Al Raine.
Both the community elementary school and the @KOOL upper grade students will continue to use the schoolhouse facilities located atop the Village Platter lift at Sun Peaks. SD73 entered into a lease contract with the Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality, and there are no plans for building infrastructure spending. Thus, this venture will not represent a financial burden on the district.
“With the Sun Peaks municipality providing the building space, we were able to make this a more attractive option for the school district to support us with teaching staff,” says Barb Kupferschmidt Linder, president of the SPES. “We’re already seeing the employment opportunities opening up, with more requests coming from families who are now thinking of accepting employment opportunities due solely to the close proximity of a school.”
“Nobody’s subsidizing us, the Sun Peaks school will cover all of its cost and make a contribution to the administration of the school district so that’s very positive,” says Raine.
In the 2.5 years since the idea of community schooling at Sun Peaks was first voiced, the centre grew from one classroom with 18 elementary students to three classroom buildings, over 50 students ranging from kindergarten to Grade 12, and the endorsement of the majority of the Kamloops-Thompson school board trustees.
The B.C. Education Plan was not addressed directly in the trustee decision, but its goals of educational programming that’s more flexible in how, when and where learning takes place speaks to the model of schooling at Sun Peaks.
“I can say that we should all be very thankful to trustee John Harwood from Clearwater who spoke very eloquently about the need to think outside the box and get out of this situation where the school district always focused on closing schools and think about the exciting prospect of opening a school in a community that’s growing,” says Raine.
“It’s certainly great for the SPES and all the people who’ve been working so hard to get public education at Sun Peaks,” he continues. “I think it’s another important milestone on our way to becoming a stable community.”
That sentiment was echoed by the SPES.
“The big thing is that it’s very exciting for the entire community and I personally would like to thank everybody who’s been involved in working together to make school in Sun Peaks a reality,” says Cannon. “This is a true reminder of what community is all about.”