Grade 7 students will soon be able to get their education in the great outdoors alongside their younger peers in South Canoe’s Outdoor Learning Program.
The program at South Canoe Elementary in Salmon Arm is currently kindergarten to Grade 6. That will be changing in September 2019 according to a press release from School District #83.
The decision to expand the program was made taking into account current demographics, and interest expressed by parents as well as students currently enrolled in the outdoor program who wish to remain at the school for Grade 7, SD83 assistant superintendent (Instruction) Carl Cooper reported to the school board.
South Canoe Elementary reopened in September 2018 to accommodate the Outdoor Learning Program. Previously, the district had been trying to sell the property.
Cooper said the district’s intention when the school re-opened was to allow students to remain in the Outdoor Learning Program until they transferred directly to secondary school in Grade 9; adding the addition of Grade 7 is a continuation of the district’s original intention.
There are currently 95 students at South Canoe, but demand is growing with 34 kindergarten students enrolled for the coming September. Cooper projected the school would have 125 students for Sept. 2020 if Grade 7 is added.
If there continues to be high interest in outdoor learning at South Canoe, Cooper said the school could hit 179 students and be able to sustain a K-8 program in the 2021/22 school year.
“Currently, we are only enrolling kindergarten students and siblings of current Outdoor Learning students,” Cooper said.
According to the school district, the results of a survey of parents of South Canoe students reflect an overwhelmingly positive response to the possibility of their child staying at the school for Grade 7.
Other options presented to the board included immediate reconfiguration to a K-8 school, or keeping it as is to delay it reaching capacity. The latter option, however, would put more pressure on the already over-capacity Shuswap Middle School.
The board chose to add Grade 7 students in September with the possibility of more growth in the future, which was the option recommended by the district’s senior staff.