HomeLinks parents vow to remove kids if CEC is closed

“Close the Creston Education Centre and we’re out of here.”

Three parents whose children use HomeLinks to support their home-schooling studies said on Thursday what other parents have been saying for years—-close the Creston Education Centre and we’re out of here.

“No one is listening to our concerns,” Michelle Deshaies said in an interview at the Advance on Wednesday. “Even the district PAC (Parent Advisory Committee) is saying that it’s a done deal and that we have to accept it. Well, we won’t.”

Deshaies, whose three children are all enrolled with HomeLinks, is adamant that she doesn’t want her kids in regular schools, and they don’t want to be in them, either. They all started out in the traditional school system, but are now thriving with the HomeLinks program currently housed in the Creston Education Centre (the former South Creston Elementary School).

Her sentiments were echoed by two more HomeLinks parents, Zav Young and Kristin Oler. The trio had met with a larger group of parents earlier in the morning and said none were willing to see their students moved to a HomeLinks program at PCSS or one of the other school district-owned buildings on Canyon Street.

“We made a list of everything we want for HomeLinks to offer for our children, and the Creston Education Centre meets every one of those criteria,” Young said. “I find it offensive that the school district does not care about our concerns and that they claim that the closure of CEC is in the best interests of students. It is not in the best interests of our children. CEC, with all of the wonderful services and programs it houses, is a valuable part of our community, and spreading those services around the valley is not in the best interests of students or parents.”

Young, who wants her children’s education to have a large outdoor component without the formality of the traditional classroom, said her kindergarten-aged son is doing well with HomeLinks.

“We started with Hands-on Home Learning, a distance education program, but we have found HomeLinks to be very supportive. My son loves it and I love it. We feel very engaged with this community and I am disheartened to the things that are happening that threaten what we already have here.”

“We will pull our kids out if this move goes forward,” she said, with Young and Oler nodding in concurrence.

“You can’t separate the two—HomeLinks and Creston Education Centre,” Young emphasized. “What they have there is awesome.”

“It’s a family—a great family,” Deshaies added. “My youngest daughter needs speech therapy and that building has a speech therapist right there—her confidence is growing daily.”

Oler has one child enrolled in HomeLinks this year and another scheduled to start next fall. She will not sit by and watch her kids be moved into a school setting, or one so close to a high school, and with no gym, no park or support services and early childhood programs.

“I wish there was someone in the system who was rooting for us,” she said. The teachers at HomeLinks are great, they agreed, but trustees and staff just don’t seem to be interested.

The proof of HomeLinks value is evident in its enrollment, which is now about 180 students, the mothers said.

“This program is growing and getting better—it’s a wonderful opportunity for our children,” Oler said. “Why would they shut it down?”

Young acknowledges that efforts by RDCK, the Town of Creston and Valley Community Services to keep the CEC from closing and being sold off are continuing, but she senses a lack of interest by School District No. 8.

“There needs to be a discussion about how to make this work,” she said. “We should not be told that closing the CEC is in the best interests of our children because it is not. I want to be excited about Creston and all that we have here to offer young families. The first time I walked into that building I felt that this is where we belong. Everything from prenatal programs through to graduation, with all the networking that parents enjoy right now—right there in one location.”

Young said her family lived in another community previously that had a Strong Start program, but it wasn’t the same.

“It did not have the same sense of vibrancy that I felt here—all these things in one place. Then we leave and go to the playground, where our kids play and we can talk to the other mothers. I am just floored that they would take away this wonderful foundational cornerstone of our community.”

“I don’t think they (the school district) know how many other homeschoolers there are who aren’t in the school system,” Deshaies said. “There is an opportunity to find ways of engaging them and the district doesn’t even seem to care.”

“Our goal is to get everyone to understand what is going on,” Oler said. “To know that we have an asset that should be bringing money into the school district.”

“Creston really has been developing a positive identity that includes embracing families that have different ways of raising children. We are teeming with resources that require a co-operative spirit.”

“This plan to close the CEC is nothing to be proud of,” Deshaies said. “There will be nothing to celebrate at the end. I’ll be there with a placard, protesting.”

Readers wanting to express their opinion about the announced closure of the Creston Education can email their trustees: Cody Beebe (cody.beebe@sd8.bc.ca); Rebecca Huscroft (rhuscroft@sd8.bc.ca) or Heather Suttie (heather.suttie@sd8.bc.ca). Superintendent of Schools Christine Perkins can be reached by email at christine.perkins@sd8.bc.ca or by telephone at 1-250-352-6681.

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