News » Sea to Sky

Private school set to open in Squamish this fall

Whistler support key to launch of new independent school at Quest University



An independent school is set to open its doors in time for the 2013-2014 school year.

Geoff Park, the owner of Camp Summit in Squamish, has been working for several years with a number of people to create the Coast Mountain Academy (CMA). The school took a serious step forward in January when David Baird was named as the head of the school, which will be housed at Quest University.

Baird brings a wealth of experience to the project from other private schools around the world.

According to Park and Baird, the goal is to open the school to students in Grade 8, 9 and 10 with three classes of 18 students in each year. Depending on the response in the coming months, they said a Grade 7 might be offered this fall.

"We want to do it right," said Baird of the first year of classes at CMA.

The intention is to add Grade 11 next year, and Grade 12 the following year, so this first group of students can complete high school at the new academy.

When the school opens its doors a bus will make daily trips to transport students from Whistler and Horseshoe Bay before and after school. Park said 15 families are in constant communication about the proposed new school.

The annual tuition to attend the school is set at $16,700.

"Whistler has been a large factor in the CMA," said Park.

"It has been a community that we've been committed to serving as the need fits from the very beginning. It's part of our potential student population and from the inception of the concept of the CMA the interest has been really strong and continuing to grow as we've moved forward."

Park said there are parents with a strong interest who plan to enroll their children and that was reflected at a well-attended information evening held in Whistler back in November.

"We've had a few Whistler families become part of our founding families program by coming up with some donations to help with the upstart of the academy," said the student summer camp owner.

An information open house at Quest held Tuesday to announce the tuition fees attracted a number of Whistler families.

The school start time each day is strategically set for a little later than the public school start times in the Sea to Sky corridor. Baird said this is based on research into teenage learning and a desire to accommodate Whistler students who start their day with hockey practice or some other form of morning workout.

The school administrators are looking to have two end-of-day bussing options available for the Whistler students at CMA.

"It depends how many students avail themselves to a tutor block at the end of the day," said Baird. "We're trying to build a model where university students here need volunteer hours can tutor English and tutor in socials and math so the day officially ends at around four. But if we have a really large uptake of people wanting tutoring it would be 20 to five."

The school officials are looking beyond the reasonable driving distance for students by offering a home-stay program. There are families in Squamish who have indicated they are willing to take in students from outside the corridor during the school year.

Each school day at CMA will be slightly longer than other schools, but the school calendar will be similar to the Sea to Sky School District with similar breaks.

Baird said the final weeks at CMA each year would be expedition time at the school. Consistent with the school's emphasis on experiential learning, students will plan trips through the year and then turn the planning into extended adventures in the month of June.

Baird and Park met with a representative of Apple last week and reported that the technology company is interested in supplying each student with an iPad Mini and a laptop. Students who don't already have those tools will be charged an additional $1,800 to cover the cost of those required tools.