LETTER: Is SD 20 trying to stifle Seven Summits?
Recently, I have felt compelled to write about the state of high school education in Rossland. It’s a topic we’ve all heard at least a thing or two about, but if I could bend your ear for just a minute, there’s a chance I might be able to bring forth a unique perspective.
Last year, I was a grade 10 student at RSS. The closure of Grades 10 – 12 left me with two options: go to JL Crowe, or attend the new independent school in Rossland – The Seven Summits Center for Learning. My initial plan was to attend Seven Summits as I strongly believe in the school’s self-directed approach to education, but I knew that going to Seven Summits also meant I would lose access to some amazing teachers – especially my art teacher, Mr. Winckers. (I am planning on attending art school after graduation.) This decision seemed to have no right answer, and up until late in the summer I still wasn’t sure which school to choose.
In the end I didn’t go to Crowe, nor did I go to Seven Summits – I went to both. This was possible because in 2008, the BC Ministry of Education announced a new educational mandate which allows grade 10 – 12 students to cross enroll between high schools, taking any course, anywhere, any time. Cross enrollment has allowed me to take my academics at Seven Summits, while taking art at Crowe. This has led me to my most successful year of high school yet – I have started building a portfolio for art school, and received better grades than ever, including scoring 93% on my Social Studies Provincial exam.
Here’s the thing: Taking the majority of my courses at Seven Summits was the best decision for me, but that doesn’t mean it would be the best decision for anyone. J.L. Crowe offers a plethora of teachers, resources, and programs that Seven Summits doesn’t, while Seven Summits offers a totally different model of education, in which you can take any course under the sun, and do it independently, at your own pace. Plus, in the intimate environment of Seven Summits you are able to have more face to face time with teachers when you need help. Neither school is better; it just depends on what you are looking for.
Unfortunately, not everyone sees things this way.
Since the inception of the Seven Summits Center for Learning, SD20’s actions have acted as a roadblock to the new school’s growth and wellbeing. Seven Summits is currently just under 40 students strong, but is slowly growing. It is likely that within a couple of years the school will need a larger building to operate from. One solution would be to rent space in the former Maclean Elementary School. As most Rosslanders are aware, SD20 sold this building to School District 93 (The Francophone School District).
However, during this sale, SD20 was insistent on one clause in the contract: “the Purchaser shall not lease or license any space on the Property for the operation of any ‘independent school’, as that term is defined in the British ColumbiaIndependent School Act.” This clause could be seen as targeting the Seven Summits Center for Learning, attempting to stunt its growth.
What’s more, SD20 has recently stated that no students from outside the district are allowed on RSS property during school hours. This mandate prevents Seven Summits grade eight and nine students from participating in RSS programs such as Band and Drama with their local peers. The administration at JL Crowe also discourages their students from cross enrolling.
As a student enrolled in both School District 20 and in the Seven Summits Center for Learning, I don’t see the need for this conflict. I understand that SD20 is dependent on funding from student enrollment, but even as it grows, the Seven Summits Center For Learning will always be a small school. In no way does Seven Summits aim to compete with SD20. Students at Seven Summits are encouraged to pursue cross enrollment if it is in their best interest. Seven Summits also is open to Crowe students taking a couple of their courses here in Rossland. All of us know that both schools have something unique to offer.
Education shouldn’t be competitive, it should be collaborative, and it is in that spirit that every staff member and student at the Seven Summits Center for Learning hopes to move forward.
James Klemmenson is a grade 11 student who lives in Rossland.