Valemount Secondary principal Dan Kenkel says it’s a chance to move in the direction the Province and the School District are saying is the future: more self-directed, multi-grade, and project-based learning.
But it’s also a matter necessity, as enrollment numbers continue to drop at both the high school and elementary school.
While the village population has not decreased since the last census in 2006, the number of children has. Kenkel attributes the drop to fewer children being born as well as urbanization of families.
Kenkel has told his staff they have one more year of being able to offer a full-service high school with their current financial reserves. If enrollment doesn’t increase, they will face “significant staffing cuts.” That would likely mean sharing resources with the elementary school – including a shared administrator and receptionist.
“If we don’t do anything, we will run out of money and that is going to be forced on us,” Kenkel says. “We have one more year to do something to try and attract 20-30 new kids to our school.”
Rather than merely offering more online “Moodle” courses, staff realized that the outdoors – the mountains and the wilderness – were their biggest comparative advantage.
From that came the idea of a Mountain School, Pioneer School or Outdoor School – as yet without an official name.