The School District 27 board unanimously endorsed the creation of a nature-based Kindergarten to start in September, 2016.
The program will be attached to Marie Sharpe Elementary School and be run at the Scout Island Nature Centre, explained SD 27 Superintendent Mark Thiessen at Tuesday’s board meeting.
“We wouldn’t be able to offer this program without the forethought and generosity of the Williams Lake Field Naturalists and the Scout Island Nature Centre,” said Thiessen.
“They came to the school district over a year ago with the offer of using their available space for a Kindergarten program.”
He said first priority for enrolment will be given to students living in the Marie Sharpe Elementary School catchment area.
If there are any spaces available after this intake then enrolment would be expanded to receive applications under the school of choice policy for students living outside the Marie Sharpe catchment area.
He said the rationale for attaching the program to Marie Sharpe Elementary School includes the fact that the school has room for more students, it is in the immediate bowl area, and would be convenient for busing.
The program, which will be reviewed by the board in its first year of operation, is also a positive addition to the school curriculum, Thiessen said.
“It fits in really well with 21st Century Learning which provides for more opportunity for physical play and outdoor learning,” Thiessen said.
He said the program budget is set at $142,756 which is based on the highest potential cost that would include a teacher certified at the upper end of the experience and pay scale. The budget also includes two hours per day for an assistant to help with the outdoor activities, as well as busing and administrative costs.
Thiessen said he was also confident that the program will meet the present district practice in that two people would be in the building at all times to deal with any emergency that might arise. He notes the Scout Island Nature Centre also has staff in the building.
Custodial costs will be shared with the naturalists. Thiessen said Cataline and Nesika elementary schools are also in the bowl area but are already very full .