UPDATED: Homelinks will stay in Creston Education Centre through 2014-2015 school year

Web Lead

  • Apr. 22, 2014 11:00 a.m.
Homelinks is located in the Creston Education Centre.

Homelinks is located in the Creston Education Centre.

(Editor’s Note: Updated to include further comments from first Homelinks principal John Solly and a link to his essay regarding the development of Homelinks)

The Homelinks supported education program will continue unchanged for 2014-15 and remain in the Creston Education Centre (CEC), School District No. 8 (Kootenay Lake) trustees decided at tonight’s regular board meeting.

More consultation, with the intent to move Homelinks out of CEC, will be undertaken in the coming year.

A crowd of more than 40 participated in the meeting via videoconferencing designed to connect with the school district offices in Nelson.

Parents and supporters of the program were on hand in both locations to encourage trustees to ignore management advice to move the kindergarten-Grade 9 program to Canyon-Lister Elementary School and the senior secondary portion to a building that currently houses the Prince Charles Secondary School alternate school program.

After what can only be described as massive confusion about motions and amendments, trustees passed separate motions, which combined will see kindergarten-Grade 12 continue status quo for the next year. In both cases, more consultation was directed, and for the senior secondary grades the direction was clear that the program will not continue in CEC beyond 2015.

Speakers representing preschool programs operated by other agencies, the StrongStart program that is run by the school district, parents, a teacher and John Solly, who organized and served as principal for the original Homelinks program, all spoke against making substantive changes to a program that has more than 140 registered students and a waiting list.

Hermen Koehoorn, whose children are Homelinks students, encouraged trustees to make a decision so parents can make plans for their children, but said a survey of parents indicates that 19 families with at least 40 students will relocate at a cost of $342,000 in lost funding to the school district.

“We need some stability,” he said. “It is demoralizing for students and parents to go through this constant turmoil.”

The loudest response from the Creston group was reserved for Solly, who said the disconnect between parents and school trustees is alarming.

“I can’t find anyone anywhere that sees you as their advocates. What is going on here?” he asked. “There is no need to have an adversarial situation, but you have one. It’s just wrong.”

At the outset, Homelinks was “able to forge a partnership that honoured parents’ commitment to home-schooling their children,” he said. “Students who went through Homelinks are now graduating from university, and they say they owe their success to this partnership between parents and the school district. I wish you could be here to feel the animosity in this room.

“In earlier years, you had parents that were advocates and who trusted you. Now they don’t. How many of them feel validated now? Zero. I think it’s going to cost you a half-million bucks (in provincial funding losses) to pull off this stunt.”

In an essay outlining the history of the Homelinks program (click here to read it), Solly expresses his concerns about the current situation in Creston:

“Regretfully, at this time I sense, at least within the Creston home-schooling community, the perception that the district is prepared to initiate substantive changes to Homelinks without the support of parents. Even more serious, perhaps, is the perception that these changes are being made more on the basis of administrative convenience or the need to mandate ‘uniformity’ for home-schooling communities throughout the district. If indeed these perceptions are accurate it is my considered opinion the board will see many parents leave Homelinks and enrol their children in programs outside the district.”

The Kootenay Lake school district, he said, risks losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in provincial funding if parents pull their children from Homelinks and enrol them in other school district programs.

In the debate leading to the final votes on the motion, trustee Annette Hambler-Pruden argued that making moves that will jeopardize the future of the Homelinks program is at odds with what is happening in other parts of the province.

“At least six other communities in B.C. want to emulate our Homelinks and you want to put it in jeopardy,” she told trustees.