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Families succeed in keeping Montessori-style Vernon school program alive

The Awaken Inquiry and Adventure Okanagan program at Fulton will run again in 2024-25
Parents of students in the Awaken Inquiry and Adventure Okanagan (AIAO) program at Clarence Fulton Secondary School met with members of the Vernon School District’s Board of Education in an effort to keep the Montessori-style program running on Feb. 7, 2024. (Submitted photo)

Parents with students in a Montessori-style school program in Vernon have succeeded in keeping the program alive for at least another year.

The Awaken Inquiry and Adventure Okanagan (AIAO) program at Clarence Fulton Secondary School was in jeopardy of being discontinued, with the Vernon School District (SD22) citing a decline in student registrations.

Parents fought to have the program carry on with a petition that accumulated close to 1,500 signatures.

Parents were then told that 40 students would need to register for the program in order for it to continue. The deadline for students registrations was Feb. 22.

On Wednesday, March 6, parents and students got the news they were hoping for.

Addressing appeals by families, the Board of Education passed a motion that staff plan for the AIAO program to run in the 2024-25 school year and beyond, confirmed Adrian Johnson, secretary-treasurer for SD22.

“Families are passionate about the Awaken Inquiry and Adventure Okanagan program at Fulton Secondary School. Parents have worked hard to publicise the program and increase what was previously a dwindling enrolment,” Supt. Christine Perkins said in a statement.

Ahead of the decision, parent Jon Jones told The Morning Star that 17 existing students would return to the program next school year, meaning 23 additional student enrolments were needed to meet the threshold of 40 students required by the school district. The school district decided to continue the program despite the fact that only 21 applications were received by Feb. 22.

“This comes as a huge relief to the parents, students and teachers. We thank the board of trustees for seeing the value and commitment that these students and teachers have for this unique educational option,” Jones said. “We are so grateful to all those former students, mentors and community support that stood with us to ensure our students’ voices were heard.”

While the school district’s decision is a victory for families, Jones said there is more work to be done as there is still a need for a five-year plan “to ensure the continued opportunity for future students’ success.”

The AIAO program provides learning opportunities rooted in place and nature-based educational practices. The educators collaborate with Okanagan businesses and mentors to engage students in a variety of experiential learning opportunities. The program uses the B.C. curriculum and is grounded in the core competencies.

The program is particularly beneficial to students with diverse needs, according to both Jones and Perkins.

“The program spans from Grade 7 to Grade 12 and includes a diverse range of students, many with complex individual needs. The Board’s mission is that ‘we inspire and nurture students to thrive in their learning, relationships and community,’” Perkins said. “With this mission in mind, district and school staff will plan to continue this program with the appropriate skills and resources needed for all the students in the program to thrive.”

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Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started at the Morning Star as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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