Education will be heading outdoors in September, as the North Okanagan Shuswap school district has received its approval from the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) to use the formerly closed South Canoe School for its new outdoor program.
As the school had been previously closed and the property put up for sale before a change of direction by the school district, the ALC was required to give its OK.
Carl Cooper, director of instruction, says the school district received word on Wednesday of the go-ahead. But it is not without conditions.
“We can not expand the footprint of the building the school is sitting on right now and we can not add any concrete structures to the site. Basically the buildings have to remain as is, we can not add anything,” says Cooper. “If there is ever a situation where we want to expand, we would have to go back them for permission.”
The outdoor school concept is new to the school district, but is proving to be a popular option. There are currently 110 students registered for September and a wait list for spaces.
The school will run classes for Grades K to 6 to start with the option to expand the school to K-7 and possibly K-8 in the future. Nearly all the classroom will be a split-grade format.
Part of the rationale for the new outdoor school program was to offer a new option to parents and students, one which also could reduce pressure at some of Salmon Arm’s elementary schools. As this is a program chosen by parents, students can come from any area of the region, but parents are responsible for providing transportation for their children.
“It absolutely is helping with the space challenges at some of the schools. The top three schools we are drawing students from (for the outdoor school) are Bastion, Hillcrest and Ranchero, with South Broadview being number four — and those are some of the schools with the biggest challenges in terms of space for students,” says Cooper.
Cooper says with this approval, the budget for the school will now be presented to Mike McKay, the official trustee, for approval at Tuesday’s board meeting.
“We are optimistic this will be approved and then we can begin the hiring process,” says Cooper , who notes the school is also getting a lot of interest from teachers wanting to be a part of the new school.
“We’ve got a lot of teachers expressing interest, which is great. We just did some wilderness first aid training for teachers and there was a lot of interest there. We are excited to be moving ahead and looking forward to September.”