Christian school parents seek society sanctuary

Parents group is racing against the clock to save their Christian school

Joe Martinsen

Joe Martinsen

The Bethel Chapel Society (BCS) Cariboo Christian School in 100 Mile House will close on Feb. 1, 2012, leaving some parents and teachers working to open a new Christian school.

A parents’ group has committed financially to retain school operations, but needs to find an appropriate charitable organization to cover it by Jan. 15, 2012.

School principal Pattie Baker notes that in order to maintain its Group 1 independent school status and Ministry of Education funding, the kindergarten to Grade 12 school undergoes a “tremendous” evaluation process on all curriculum every five years.

“We’ll need to work with the [BCS] board to see what kind of funding is going to transfer for the year.”

Bethel Chapel spokesperson Pastor Joe Martinsen notes that at the society’s Dec. 8 annual general meeting, where the decision to close the school was made, the membership also passed a motion giving permission to the school to seek out another society under which they could operate.

“The purpose of this motion was the possibility of transferring our government funding,” he explains.

“Another motion was passed allowing the principal to present a specific list of desired resources for approval to the Bethel Chapel Society board.”

Martinsen explains the BCS is “very aware of the difficulty it places on students, parents and teachers” to close the school mid-year.

“Bethel society has been 100 per cent responsible for the financial obligations of the school

“Even with budget cuts, drastically lower levels of revenue this year make the school unsustainable until the end of the school year.”

While parent/teacher group spokesperson Cheryl Howard had previously indicated that to help make the school more viable, a new Christian school would be open to any denomination or non-churchgoers, Baker notes that this was always the case at Cariboo Christian School.

The issue of increasing enrolment is more a case of attempting to encourage more non-member students, she says.

The school will still be operated with a definite Christian curriculum, Baker says, adding parents need to be aware of that.

It is important to retain the work put into maintaining that independent school status, she explains, and the majority of teachers and parents need to be on board to make it happen.

“We are so blessed. We had a meeting on [Dec. 12] and the parents not only were really committed to doing this, but they also committed to some additional funding.”

Currently, the school averages 23 students, she notes, and the Ministry of Education provides about half of the regular per-student funding and a grant relating to its Group 1 independent school status.

Baker says she is beginning to meet with society boards to discuss the potential for operating under one of those.

“If we can find a society to take us on until we get going again, we will be able to keep the school open.

“In a sense we are anxious, but in a way, it really is awesome to see people coming together and trying to work this though.”

Meanwhile, Martinsen adds that each family is now deciding what is best for the future education of their children.

“Some are choosing to home school, some are transferring to the public school system, and some are desiring that a new school will be formed.”

School District 27 superintendent Diane Wright says she encourages parents to go to the appropriate school in their neighbourhood and seek to either register their child or complete a school of choice application.

“[SD27 staff] and the principals will work with every family, as we always do, toward finding a classroom for their child.”