When students in Sun Peaks head back to school, it won’t be quite the same as they remember.
After several months of discussion, School District 73’s board of trustees agreed, as of Aug. 27, to open a new school at Sun Peaks for kindergarten to Grade 5 students, as of Sept. 4.
Under the new agreement, the Sun Peaks municipality will supply classroom space and pay maintenance costs, while the school district will supply teachers, office equipment and administrators, SD73 superintendent Terry Sullivan told KTW.
Because those costs are covered by provincial operating grants, Sullivan said the new school won’t have a major impact on the district’s budget. But, he said, the agreement couldn’t have gone ahead if the municipality hadn’t provided the space.
“The problem we have is that we have all kinds of excess space in the school district. It’s not in the right places, though,” he said. “As a result of that, the province really hasn’t given us any money for capital additions, renovations or new schools.”
The school is expected to have 41 students to start and will run at Sun Peaks’ Discovery Centre for Balanced Education, where the district has run a distance-education program since 2010.
Sullivan said the new school will replace that program at the primary level, though about nine students in higher grades will continue with the old Discovery Centre programming.
To start, two substitute teachers will oversee a kindergarten to Grade 1 and a Grade 2 to 5 class, with permanent staff likely coming on board in the third week of September.
Sun Peaks Mayor Al Raine said the community is “delighted” to have the school district bring programming to the space.
Until now, facilitators working with students at the Discovery Centre have been paid for by the Sun Peaks Education Society (which will continue to pay for a teacher for the school’s secondary students), but running the distance-learning program has become more and more expensive.
“The Education Society raised about $120,000 last year just to fund the operation of the school here,” he said.
“This year, their costs probably would have been closer to $160,000. That’s a lot of money to raise in a small community.”
As part of that fundraising, Sun Peaks’ mayor and council contribute their annual stipends – about $34,000 in total – to the community’s education fund, a practice Raine said will continue under the new agreement.
One portion of the new agreement, however, has school trustee Meghan Wade concerned.
Wade, the only trustee to vote against the agreement, said she’s in favor of most of the plan and wants to see a school at Sun Peaks. But, she said she couldn’t support a portion of the agreement that allows for a four-day school week at the school.
While the distance-learning program in the community used a four-day week, Wade said face-to-face schooling makes that schedule more challenging.
“We have got little people, five years old.
“And a four-day school week means a longer school day,” she said.
“When you start to miss school for whatever reason, more is packed into those four days. So, in one day, you are missing more.”
Wade said she’s asked for an educational justification for the four-day week during past board discussions on the school, but hasn’t received an answer.
“I needed reasons other than, ‘That’s what we’re used to,’ to agree to that schedule shift, and I didn’t receive it,” she said.
However, Sullivan said that, despite the agreement, the four-day week isn’t a sure thing for Sun Peaks.
To make that kind of change to the school calendar, the district must reach an agreement with the Kamloops-Thompson Teachers’ Association – which requires 40 working days notice.
“We don’t have an agreement. We haven’t even had a chance to talk to the association about this,” Sullivan said.
“We can’t start with a four-day week. We have to start with a five-day week.”
– Kamloops This Week