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New alternative school opening in Springbank

A new school for students in kindergarten to Grade 6 is opening in Springbank next fall, with a focus on mindful education, outdoor learning and emotional well-being.

The Calgary Changemaker School (CCS), located off of the Trans-Canada Highway and Range Road 33 (across from Calaway Park), is an independent, tuition-based school that will begin classes in late August.

“We’re going to be doing things a little differently,” said the school’s founder and head, Kristi Kraychy. “We’re looking to spend a lot of time outdoors with our kids, and the indoor spaces will incorporate a lot of flexibility, movement, choice and voice in the kids’ learning.”

The school’s website says CCS will provide a unique learning environment for “creative personalities, sensitive dreamers and busy innovators.” Kraychy added the school’s priority is for students to develop a sense of self, purpose and belonging.

“We do not believe in a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to education,” she said. “We believe there should be choices and alternatives in education so that each child can learn and grow with joy and confidence.”

A focus on mental health in early education and the importance of students expressing their individuality, she added, is what inspired the creation of the school.

“The need is to prioritize that social and emotional learning piece, and the social and emotional wellness of kids in their learning environment,” she said.

The school, which is located at 16 Commercial Drive in a leased two-storey building, will have a maximum enrolment of 112 students for its first year – 16 per grade. Kraychy noted there will be bus services for students from area communities.

According to Kraychy, CCS is currently in the process of becoming accredited by Alberta Education. She said most of the teachers, educational assistants and administrative staff have been hired, though two or three more spots will be filled later this spring.

“We seem to be attracting teachers, because they really seem to believe in this kind of education and that mental health should come first,” she said. “Sometimes – not always – they are restricted in other schools, because of a push for academics. But we know the research actually supports [developing] the whole child first, and then, the academics thrive.”

A key feature of the school will be an outdoor learning area, according to Kraychy, where students will learn hands-on how to plant trees and build gazebos, mud kitchens and other play structures.

“There’s a lot of research now showing how important spending time outdoors, physically, and just [being] in nature, can help with mental health…and self-purpose and belonging,” she said.

Though it will differ from more traditional schools, Kraychy said, CCS’s programming will still abide by Alberta Education’s Program of Studies.

“We’ll just do it in a very hands-on, active and outdoor way,” she said.

Because the school is independent, tuition fees will pay for the school’s staff and operational costs, according to Kraychy. Tuition will cost roughly $10,000 a year for students in kindergarten, or $14,000 a year for students in grades 1 through 6. 

As CCS is technically classified as an independent or private school, Kraychy said, it will not receive any public funding from the Alberta government during its first year of operation.

“What we get is a percentage of the base student rate if we operate successfully for a year,” she said. “So, for the first year, we’re not going to get any funding at all.

“Every penny [families] pay in tuition covers our teacher costs, renting the building, operational costs – there are a lot of costs.”

Applications for CCS for the 2020-21 school year open Jan. 20, and an information session for prospective families will be held Jan. 19 at 11:30 a.m. at the school's facility. For more information and to reserve a spot in the session, visit calgarychangemakerschool.com




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Scott Strasser

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