Cariboo Christian Academy faces imminent closure

Church closing school but parents want to take it over

The lone Christian school in 100 Mile House is in danger of closing before the end of this school year.

For almost three decades, Cariboo Christian Academy has been operated by the Bethel Chapel Society (BCS) under the auspices of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.

Asked to comment on the situation on Dec. 13, the society board chose to send the following press release.

“It is with sadness that we announce Cariboo Christian School will be closing February 1, 2012 due to issues of sustainability in these hard economic times.

“We would like to thank the community of 100 Mile House and the surrounding area for all of their support during the past 29 years the school has been in operation. Many children have benefited through your partnership.”

Meanwhile, parents’ spokesperson Cheryl Howard says a group of concerned individuals and parents met Monday night (Dec. 12) with the school’s teachers and principal Pattie Baker.

Howard says those at the meeting voted to strive to keep the school open, and committed financially to help make that happen.

“They’re cancelling in the middle of the school year and we didn’t have any notice. It is very, very difficult for the students, the parents and the staff.”

If a new society can be found to cover the school’s operation with the support and commitment of the parents, the teachers will remain, she explains.

“[Baker] is not stepping down. She has agreed to stay on and all the staff has also, at this point.”

Howard says a motion she made at the BCS society’s annual general meeting on Dec. 8 for the society to offer transitional support if an interim society can keep the school open was passed by the membership.

Howard says she is “encouraged” that may mean the current building could remain available.

The plan now is to offer a Christian school that will be open to anyone of any denomination, she adds, which will help make the school more viable.

“We want to open up the school to be more inclusive rather than exclusive to the community,” Howard says, adding students won’t have to belong to a church to go to the school.

The parents’ group is looking for a broader support base in the community, as a lot of families appreciate the alternative choice offered by the private school, she notes, and many people have “worked very hard” for 29 years to establish it and keep it operational.

“This school is an important part of the community and we don’t want to let it shut down. We have an opportunity right now to keep this school open and be of service to so many families.”

Howard says she likes this approach because she has direct experience founding a private school in the Comox Valley run by all the people directly involved.

“[That] makes it a healthier, viable school because it’s not control from the top down. You’re getting people who actually have kids in the school.”

Opening the school to the whole community will also ensure its long-term success, she adds.

“It will give a financial boost to the school – absolutely.”

The group is looking to be a parent-run school under a new society, but she explains it is a “very tight timeline,” as they must do it by Jan. 15, 2012 to preserve its Class 1 independent school status and Ministry of Education funding.

“At the parents meeting, we did say we want to have the parents on a board for the school, and we want input from leaders and parents in the community.”

Because it takes up to a year to establish a charitable society, the school needs an interim society to take it under its umbrella, she notes, as well as a confirmed facility.

The group is making inquiries in that regard, but Howard asks anyone who has advice or suggestions for helping the school to contact her at 250-397-0252.

100 Mile House Free Press