New First Nations program may save school

Proposed program came out of concern over possible closing of Stawamus Elementary

A proposed new school program might just save Stawamus Elementary School from closing.

The Connecting Learning with Language, Land and Culture program would be available for all Squamish children in Kindergarten to Grade 6 and is a result of collaboration between the Squamish Nation, the Sea to Sky school district and the parents of Stawamus, according to Susan Leslie, district principal for aboriginal education.

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The idea for the program came about when the Stawamus parent advisory council was briefed on the low numbers at the school and the possibility of the school’s closing, Leslie said.

Stawamus can accommodate 195 students but currently has about 76 students enrolled.

“So they were thinking about, what could we do to bring greater numbers to the school?” Leslie said. A similar conversation was had with the Squamish Nation and the seed for the program of choice was planted, Leslie added.

Students would learn the ministry of education curriculum through a local First Nations culture and language lens.

All children could participate in the program, not just those of aboriginal descent, Leslie said.

“This program will prepare students for a future in a sustainable world by incorporating aboriginal language, culture and ways of knowing,” reads an information sheet with a survey on the program sent home with Squamish elementary school students.

The proposed program would fit nicely at Stawamus, but is not tied to that particular school, according to Leslie.

On the surveys, parents had to commit to the program, not to the place where it could be held.

“We don’t want to tie a program to a school and then they close the school and then close our program,” Leslie said. “What was more important for the community, when they came together to develop this possible program of choice was, here is our opportunity to put together something amazing for our kids, based on language, land and culture – to engage students. To make the learning meaningful and get our kids outside in an amazing place that we live in and connect our kids to the land not only with learning, but with service too,” she said.

“So, perhaps the [potential] closing of Stawamus was a negative thing in terms of ‘aw, we love this school,’ but it opened a window of opportunity to think about something that could be powerful and amazing learning for our kids.”

Even if the program gets the go-ahead from the board this week, another proposal on two or three possible locations for the program will have to be brought before the board at a later date.

The goal is for the proposed program to begin in September, with registration starting early this spring.

The Sea to Sky board of education heard the presentation Wednesday, Jan. 14, but has yet to make a decision. 

Check back  for updates on this story.


This story has been updated since it was first posted to reflect that the board had not yet made a decision. 

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