The Kootenay Lake school board unanimously voted Tuesday to introduce kindergarten at Nelson’s Wildflower school, and an unsually large crowd of parents, teachers, administrators and even students was there to hear the news.
“Wildflower started around a kitchen table,” teacher Barbara Hargreaves told the meeting, going through the history of the program for trustees along with principal Naomi Ross.
Started in 2000, Wildflower became part of the district in 2002, and has expanded since. An alternative school with a multi-age classroom environment, Hargreaves said Wildflower’s mission is to “educate the whole child.”
“Our multi-age learning environment is one of support, safety, trust, respect and compassion,” Ross said. “For us, social responsibility goals are just as important as academic goals.”
Currently the classroom based at Central School supports students ages 6 to 12, but under their new system that group would be split in half. One class would consist of kindergarten, Grade 1 and potentially Grade 2 students, while the older kids would be in a cohort from Grades 2 through 6.
Ross said they’re particularly proud of their community garden, and projects they’ve tackled such as the recent pictograph-themed mural they created in collaboration with the Sinixt First Nation and local artist Amber Santos.
“Every school in SD8 offers kindergarten except Wildflower,” said Hargreaves. “We welcome change and we do evolve and think it’s time for a change. Why now? We feel like we have the support.”
That was self-evident.
Ross told the board she’s looked at projections and at the families currently involved at Wildflower, and she’s confident they’ll have no problem routinely filling the class. Introducing kindergarten would only require one additional classroom space.
Superintendent Jeff Jones noted Creston’s Wildflower school won’t be getting a kindergarten because their population can’t sustain one.
Board chair Lenora Trenaman asked about Grade 2s in the school, and Ross said they’re going to decide case-by-base which students end up where. They plan to keep class numbers below 22, and the cap is 24.
“I think Wildflower does an excellent job,” trustee Curtis Bendig said. “Obviously there’s strong support here.”