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Ski-in school pioneer of alternative education

Students make their way to school on a blustery morning at Sun Peaks.
Image Credit: SOURCE/Balanced Education
July 15, 2013 - 4:01 PM

SUN PEAKS – A school in the middle of a ski hill. Four days per week of classroom work and three days to explore the mountainside at leisure. After one year as a public school enrollment increases 100 per cent. With all this and more going for it Sun Peaks Elementary is definitely making waves in the world of education.

The school began as Balanced Education, an independent Kindergarten through Grade 12, with 18 students in 2010. The following year it grew to 35 students and two weeks before the third year of the program was set to start with more than 50 students School District 73 was given approval to open a public school for Kindergarten through Grade 5. Grades six through 12 students still utilize the distance learning program through Balanced Education.

A total of 27 students attended the public school this past year and assistant superintendent Karl deBruijn says they are anticipating around 50 students this next school year. They are also adding an additional classroom and a third teacher.

DeBruijn says he's very pleased with the first year and notes it has been a really good year for the school overall.

“There were challenges to overcome. With any kind of change you need time to get your head around it.” deBruijn says, “We had several meetings with the families throughout the course of the year, most of the feedback was they really appreciated the year as well.”

Among the challenges students, teachers and district staff faced this year was figuring out how to get equipment, such as a photocopier, to a school located in the middle of a ski run. Resort staff came to the rescue on that one, helping to bring equipment to the school with a Sno-Cat, typically used for grooming the ski trails. Teachers and students, who took the carpet lift (a conveyor belt style lift) to school in the morning, were left to their own devices for carting homework to and from school.

DeBruijn notes the teaching job is not for the faint of heart either.

“It's not a typical (school) structure, you have to be a little bit of a pioneering type of teacher to go up there,” he says with a chuckle.

The small school building does not have a gym, and deBruijn hopes the teachers will make use of what is available at the resort, including the pool, skating rink and ski hills, and hopes they will be able to partner with the sports instructors in the near future.

The first year was so successful deBruijn has already discussions with Sun Peaks Mayor Al Raine about where they could take the school in the future. Some of the ideas they have seriously discussed include partnering to offer labs and other hands on classes for the senior years students who are currently learning through the distance learning program and offering a ski academy that would combine both education and ski training as part of the curriculum.

While the Sun Peaks school is set to nearly double in size over a one year period many other elementary schools in the district are showing a smaller increase. DeBruijn notes registration is down in secondary schools though and is hoping overall the numbers will come out even.

“I'm hoping it will level off all together. For the last 10 years or so it's been a negative drop, so to hit a levelling off is a signal of growth.” DeBruijn says, “No decline is a milestone.”

Sun Peaks Elementary is located in the middle of a ski hill, which can cause transportation issues during certain times of the year.
Sun Peaks Elementary is located in the middle of a ski hill, which can cause transportation issues during certain times of the year.
Image Credit: SOURCE/Balanced Education

To contact a reporter for this story, email, call (250)819-3723 or tweet @JennStahn.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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