Fruitvale Elementary School students Peyton Hollis and Hayden Demoskoff will make good use of their new Chromebooks thanks to support from ATCO Wood Products and REN Energy. Photo: Submitted

Fruitvale Elementary School students Peyton Hollis and Hayden Demoskoff will make good use of their new Chromebooks thanks to support from ATCO Wood Products and REN Energy. Photo: Submitted

Industry leaders make generous connection with Kootenay-Columbia school

Two West Kootenay companies purchase Chromebooks for Fruitvale Elementary School

Beaver Valley businesses made a generous and timely connection with Fruitvale Elementary School (FES) to help students and staff upgrade their technology while navigating the pandemic.

ATCO Wood Products and REN Energy provided funding so the school could purchase a classroom full of 30 Chromebooks to help Grades 4-7 with in-class and remote learning.

“ATCO and Rebecca Weatherford (ATCO president) have been exceptional in our school for years,” said FES principal Mike Page. “After Christmas she said, ‘touch base,’ because we were looking at trying to increase our technology at our school. But with another wave of COVID, our whole district had to plan for going online and what that will look like.”

The pandemic forced educators to think outside the box and beyond, and with the constantly changing COVID protocols it made learning without technology all but impossible.

Scott Weatherford, ATCO chief executive officer, gives full credit to wife, Rebecca, for her work at FES and initiating their company’s involvement with the program.

“It goes to the heart of the vision of our company, we are here to create a better future for our employees, our community, our forests, it’s our vision to look generations down the road and create those improvements,” said Weatherford.

Scott works closely with REN CEO Philip Viggiani and the development of a Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) facility at Park Siding near Fruitvale, so their partnership in this initiative only made sense.

“One of the aspects we’ve talked about is how to work together on community support projects, so when Mike (Page) submitted this idea to us, I thought this was a great project for ATCO and REN to partner with,” said Weatherford.

For Viggiani, with the state-of-the-art RNG facility set to break ground in the spring, the 50/50 funding for FES proved a positive introduction to the West Kootenay community.

“We are all excited, it’s a great project, a great initiative and we’re all happy that we can help make an impact,” said Viggiani. “And this is a great way to do that.”

Viggiani saw first hand how technology as a learning tool helped his own daughter engage with her studies and improve her marks.

“COVID is one of the triggers that got me involved with this,” he said. “I’ve seen what an I-Pad and a Chromebook can do for her.”

All FES curriculum has been downloaded onto Chromebooks so students can access regular course work and assignments, with assistance from teachers and educational aids.

“It’s good for kids to become digital citizens and really use technology as a tool, and not just YouTube or Minecraft,” said Page. “They are learning how to use Skool and Excel, and they are becoming proficient users in a real world context.”

ATCO has been part of the Fruitvale landscape for 70 years, and both companies’ investment in FES will undoubtedly reap future benefits when those same students join the workforce. A positive result for the school, the community, and future generations.

“Our teachers and staff here at FES have been fantastic, their willingness to learn overnight has been amazing, a real team approach,” said Page. “And, when you have a community approach too, it is awesome.”

Once the current COVID spread slows, FES has invited the Weatherfords and Viggiani for a tour of the school and a big thank you from the students.

Read: REN leader hopeful for March construction on Fruitvale RNG plant

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