Board approves program expansion

South Canoe’s Outdoor Learning program will expand to include one more grade starting in September 2019.

Currently Kindergarten to Grade 6, the Board gave approval to a recommendation by staff to add Grade 7.

“It is exciting to be expanding a program that just started this year,” commented Board Chair Marianne VanBuskirk.

Assistant Superintendent (Instruction) Carl Cooper reported to the Board that after considering the demographics, current parent and student interest at remaining at South Canoe, capacity issues and the original intention of becoming a Kindergarten to grade 7 school for September 2019, the Senior Leadership Team at School District No. 83 recommends approval transitioning South Canoe Elementary to a Kindergarten to Grade 7 School with an Outdoor Learning Program for September 2019.

He commented that South Canoe re-opened in September 2019 as a kindergarten to grade 6 school with 95 students. The stated intention when the school was re-opened was to allow students to remain at the Outdoor Learning Program until they transitioned directly to secondary school in grade 9. The recommendation is a continuation of that intention.

Currently, there are 95 students at South Canoe, and have registered 34 kindergarten students for September. He said if Grade 7 is added the school would be projected to have 125 students for September 2020. He noted that if the continued high interest in the Outdoor Learning Program continues (e.g. 34 kindergarten registrations), the school will reach capacity as a K-8 Outdoor Learning Program 2021-2022, with 179 students. “Currently, we are only enrolling kindergarten students and siblings of current Outdoor Learning students.”

Parents of current South Canoe students were surveyed to gauge their interest in their child attending South Canoe for grade 7, and the response was overwhelmingly positive.

Cooper presented three options:

Option 1: Keep South Canoe School as kindergarten to grade 6 school. This would prevent it from reaching capacity until 2023-2024. However, students currently in grade 6 would then need to transition via Shuswap Middle for 2 years. This option would also add additional students to Shuswap Middle which is currently over-capacity.

Option 2: Transition South Canoe Elementary to a Kindergarten to grade 7 School with an Outdoor Learning Program for September 2019. This would allow the current grade 6 students at South Canoe to continue with the Outdoor Education Program, help alleviate space challenges at Shuswap
Middle School, and meet the original intent of the Board Motion of December 2017. This model would allow for the possibility of a transition towards a full K-8 next year and reduce the number of transitions for students. This model does increase space pressures on South Canoe, which is projected to reach capacity one year sooner in this configuration.

Option 3: Reconfigure South Canoe as a kindergarten to grade 8 school now. This allows for all current students to continue their outdoor leaning program until grade 8. This alleviates some space challenges at Shuswap Middle. However, the grade 8 class would become a one year in South Canoe and then out again, meaning 3 transitions in 3 years for those students. Moving to a kindergarten to grade 8 school now also shortens the timeline to when South Canoe will have capacity challenges. Support interest in outdoor learning After considering the demographics, current parent and student interest at remaining at South Canoe, capacity issues and the original intention of becoming a Kindergarten to grade 7 school for September 2019, the Senior Leadership Team at School District No. 83 recommends approval of Option 2: Transition South Canoe Elementary to a Kindergarten to Grade 7 School with an Outdoor Learning Program for September 2019.

Senior leadership recommended, and the Board approved, Option 2.

Trustee Amanda Krebs commented that space issues, and rumours about school configurations keep coming up. Superintendent of Schools/CEO Peter Jory commented that one key piece of planning which still needs to be done is a long term facilities plan. “When we do this we will have to do some serious considerations about what our configuration looks like – educationally, culturally and demographically.”

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