Students in Grade 7 to 9 will now have another option for their education, thanks to the Vernon Community School’s Social Justice Academy.
At a recent district board meeting, trustees approved the academy on a one-year trial basis, with the school set to open in September 2014.
Fulton principal Ken Gatzke and teachers Kim Ondrik and Murray Sasges had recently made a presentation to the board at an in-camera meeting, but were present at the public meeting to answer questions and to ask for board approval.
The academy will be in place at Fulton with a minimum of 56 students and a maximum of 60, with no cost to the district. The program will use innovative ways of teaching students, while still following the B.C. curriculum.
Calling itself a place of mindful teaching and learning rooted in social justice, the academy will engage students in community projects, such as helping out at the Salvation Army Food Bank, or seniors’ centres.
“Our superintendent is encouraging us to innovate and our schools do a great job, but there are families looking at a different way of learning,” said Gatzke. “I’m willing to principal this at Fulton, as we have space for this at the school.”
Ondrik said the original plan was for the academy to be open to students beginning in Grade 6.
“But we are hoping to change it to Grade 7 to 9,” she said. “There were concerns around math, but we are hoping to work with VLearn and we’ll provide students with opportunities to use numeracy, as we want the kids to come out of our academy with really strong skills.”
The vision, she said, is to bring to the academy around 55 students from all over the district.
“And in doing innovative things we want to make sure we are respectful of other school’s work — we are very excited about this, but have been careful not to say too much until we get the go-ahead.”
District superintendent Joe Rogers will undertake an analysis of the academy for board review by January 2015.
“There are some concerns about kids leaving their home schools to go to Fulton, and there are concerns around mathematics, especially with algebra, but they will be partnering with VLearn for math, so it should be fine,” he said. “The big part is the class size, they need a big recruiting job to make sure there are enough students.”
Parents and students are invited to an information night Jan. 21 at 7 p.m. at Vernon secondary school.