Sun Peaks parents create own school for kids

The threat of losing Heffley Creek elementary and having their children ride two hours a day to schools elsewhere prompted Sun Peaks parents to create a school at the resort municipality.

"It's something people in our community wanted to see for some time," Maria Cannon, president of the Sun Peaks Education Society, said Tuesday.

She said 21 students are expected to attend school at the resort's Discovery Centre when classes resume Sept. 7.

The school, a partnership between the new non-profit society and the Kamloops-Thompson School District, will instruct students from kindergarten to Grade 7 using distance-learning technology under the guidance of a full-time teacher hired by the parents.

"It's a new type of educational initiative between Sun Peaks Education Society and School District 73," she said. "It's community based schooling."

Cannon said it will cost $75,000 to operate the school for the 2010-2011 school year. The money will pay for the teacher's salary, use of the centre and school supplies. The school district has also provided computers via @KOOL online learning.

The society is raising money to recoup the cost. About $55,000 has been raised in pledges from the community and Cannon is confident all the expenses will be paid, she said.

Cannon has a son going into Grade 1 who was previously enrolled at Heffley. When that school was slated to close along with other rural schools during a restructuring last fall, Cannon and other parents pursued a school of their own.

Trustees elected to keep Heffley Creek open but, with a new municipality at the resort, it seemed like a good time to move forward with the school, she said.

Mayor Al Raine said the school is a parent-driven initiative that marks a turning point for the fledgling municipality. He hopes having a school at Sun Peaks encourages more people to live there year-round.

"I think it's a step forward for the community," he said. "The town is bustling with excitement."

Raine said the students will spend four days a week in class. The fifth day will be filled with activities like skiing, snowboarding or trail rides depending on the weather.

He said it's not the end of the world to have children on a bus for two hours a day, but it's time that can be better spent.

"It's two hours of unproductive time," he said.

Children from Sun Peaks, Whitecroft and the Barriere area will attend the new school. School district assistant superintendent Karl deBruijn said the students would otherwise be enrolled at Heffley, Rayleigh and other schools in the district.

But the school district will not see its enrolment numbers or per-pupil funding suffer as the 21 youths are enrolled at @KOOL, he said.

DeBruijn said Sun Peaks has chosen a unique education opportunity and the school district will support them as best it can.

For more information on the Sun Peaks school go online to www.balancededucation.ca.

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