North Vancouver alternative school to close after unanimous vote

North Vancouver alternative school to close after unanimous vote

An alternative public school in North Vancouver is set to close after a unanimous vote from the board of the Gulf Islands School District, which has operated Windsor House for the past eight years.

Windsor House began in 1971 as a private school, but became part of the North Vancouver School District in 1975. Eight years ago it was facing closure, and the Gulf Islands School District agreed to take it and keep it open.

But it's been a challenge to keep the school financially viable, as it lacked a permanent home, and relied on rented buildings.

"The bottom line is there's no space to house us," said Meghan Carrico, principal of Windsor House.

According to the Gulf Islands School District, Windsor House ran a $570,000 deficit over the last two years.

Carrico said only one student lives part-time in the Gulf Islands, while more than three-quarters of the 200 kindergarten to Grade 12 students live in Vancouver. The rest are from North Vancouver and elsewhere in the region.

Democratic, student-led

Carrico has been involved in the school for most of her life. Her mother started the democratic, student-led learning school, and she's been a full-time staff member there for 30 years. She became principal eight years ago.

According to Carrico, students determine their own schedules and activities. Committees are formed to work through issues that arise if students act out. Students work in mixed-age groups, and spend a lot of time doing activities that resemble play, or that drive creativity.

Carrico said the closure has been expected since at least March, and now the work of transitioning the students to other schools is well underway.

'An incredible ride'

"It's a big job and there's a lot of sadness, and work to be done. There's a lot of work to be done," she said.

"It's been an incredible ride."

She said there won't be a Windsor House in September, but some parents, including Carrico — who has a child at Windsor House — are trying to continue the style of education.

"I'm still hopeful that at some point a local school district will be able to run a program like this, or open a school like this. And I would be excited to help make that happen."