Seven Summits Centre for learning plans to fill void left by SD20

Arlen MacLaine
By Arlen MacLaine
June 29th, 2013

It is not an exaggeration to say that Wednesday evening’s Neighbourhoods of Learning (NOL) public meeting about the new Seven Summits Centre for Learning was ‘standing room only.’  About 150 Rosslanders turned out at the Rossland Gallery to hear about the new learning option for grades 8-12.

The Seven Summits Centre for Learning is the result of a partnership between Red Mountain Academies, the Visions for Small School society (VSS), the NOL, and SelfDesign Learning Community.

SelfDesign Learning Community is an independent, distributed learning school that is internationally recognized, and is the winner of the “Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Education Innovation.”  SelfDesign offers personalized learning customized to each learner’s needs using an effective combination of online interactive learning and face-to-face learning.  All of the courses to be offered by the centre are certified by the B.C. Ministry of Education, and students will take the same provincial exams as in public school, in order to receive their dogwood certificates.

The teachers, referred to as ‘mentors,’ are also all certified with the Ministry of Education.  As an independent distributed learning school, it will receive partial funding from the provincial government.

Some of the advantages offered by the new learning centre include the ability for students to continue to participate in RSS and JL Crowe sports teams.  Grade 10-12 learners are also able to cross-enrol if desired, which means they can take one or more courses at JL Crowe, while still being involved in the learning centre here in Rossland.

Barbarah Nicoll, Vice Principal of SelfDesign, spoke about the program and some of the opportunities available with it.  “With SelfDesign, there is so much potential to build what you want, and what fits,” she said.  “The centre of our work is the youth.  We have the luxury of that, because we only get paid half of what a public school gets paid, to run our program.  Because of that, you get people who are passionate about education, because there is no other reason to be there.”

On the subject of costs, there is a tuition fee of 1000 dollars a year.  VSS, which encompasses the board of directors that oversees the operation of the learning centre, is a non-profit group, with no paid positions.  The tuition covers facility and administration costs.  There are also options for families in financial need, so that everyone who wishes to have their child attend will be able to do so.

Some audience members had questions regarding the performance of SelfDesign learners on provincial exams, compared to the public system.  Nicoll replied, “We have students that score anywhere from 50% to 99%, just like any school.  It is totally based on the individual.”  She added, “You can spend all your time teaching to the test. We don’t.  We teach to the love of learning.  Along the way we prepare them to write the test, because that is an important life skill too.”

At one point, someone said, “Thank you for being here and telling us all the things that are possible, because for the past few months we’ve been hearing about all the things that aren’t possible.”  This drew a huge applause for the crowd, which gave a snapshot of how the community felt and the desire to fill the void left by the closing of RSS.

“We have such a product-oriented culture on the whole.  If we move from the product to the process, there is all kinds of potential,” said Nicoll.

Aerin Guy, coordinator with the NOL, stressed to interested parents the importance of making the decision to sign their children up quickly, as they are on strict deadlines to get numbers finalized by the end of the month at the latest.  So, if you are interested in having your children continue their education in Rossland, at the Seven Summits Centre for Learning, act now.  Interested parents can visit www.sevensummitslearning.com for application packages, or email info@sevensummitslearning.com

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