November 6, 2012
Unexpected Bountiful school shuttering surprises officials
By Jim Morris, QMI Agency
VANCOUVER -- Having more than 200 children unexpectedly needing public schooling because of the closing of a private school in the polygamist community of Bountiful has unsurprisingly created some challenges for district superintendent Jeff Jones.
But Jones believes exposing the children and their parents to more public education can prove beneficial.
“In terms of exposure to a broader variety of options and opportunities in life, I would hope we are able to open that up for them so they see themselves more as a member of a global community," Jones said in an interview Tuesday.
Bountiful Elementary-Secondary School closed suddenly in September.
“That came as a bit of a surprise for the ministry," said provincial Education Ministry spokesman Scott Sutherland.
There has been no explanation for the school closing, which had an enrolment of 265 students last year.
About 1,000 people live in Bountiful, a commune in southwestern B.C. Residents follow a form of Mormonism that practices polygamy.
Bountiful Elementary was controlled by an extreme faction in the community connected to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and its jailed leader Warren Jeffs.
A second school, with about 178 students, remains open but is controlled by another faction.
When Bountiful Elementary-Secondary closed, education of the students became the responsibility of the local school district. For Jones, it was like scrambling to open a new school.
“It's been a very challenging experience to ensure that everybody gets off to the start they deserve to get off to," said Jones. “That also required us to shift around our staffing to ensure the resources are in place to support students."
Some of the students have registered as independent home-schoolers, said Jones. This means parents will educate their children at home but will have access to school resources.
About 180 students are registered in a supported home-schooling program where parents work with certified professionals in the school district.
“Over time I think we will see more of the students and the parents participating in the activities that are generated through the school district," Jones said. “I also think the parents will see opportunities they may not have seen before."