Exclusive: Virtual school at risk to close

By Nigel Maxwell
March 28, 2014 - 5:24pm Updated: March 29, 2014 - 9:22am

paNOW has learned Credenda may be shutting down this year, unless school officials can find alternate means of funding.

Federal funding will run out in June. The school receives $1.4 million each year. Since 2005, more than $12 million has been invested into the school.

"They've invested all these dollars and now they are just going to walk away," said Credenda director of education Vince Hill.

The Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development would not directly comment on the situation, but did issue a press release.

"The Government of Canada believes that First Nations are best placed to determine whether or not to enter into an agreement with a third party, such as Credenda, for the delivery of education services for their students.

In 2013-2014 the Government is providing approximately $1.4 million to Credenda Virtual High School through an annual contribution agreement. This financial support is not intended to be used as core-based funding by Credenda."

Essentially the school has been told that moving forward they should approach the individual bands for money to pay for the school's services, a request that Hill said he will not do.

"There is no way they can afford it, and I don't blame them. I would never try to impose that or try to suggest that because it's just not fair. Our First Nations are underfunded already," said Hill.

Credenda is not alone in its problem. All virtual schools in Canada that are First Nations funded, are facing possible closure.

Credenda serves upwards of 40 First Nations communities in Saskatchewan--900 students were enrolled this year.

"Bottom line is when these First Nations students come out of the school system in the communities, they are ready to go into the labour force and we do need trained and skilled people in our labor force in Saskatchewan, and our First Nations are the largest population that can provide that," said Hill.

The school is exploring its options and Hill was confident they could keep the school open. Aboriginal Affairs has informed the school if they can find support, funding might be reinstated.

In the coming weeks, Hill plans to meet with Member of Parliament Randy Hoback, MLAs and the Tribal Councils.

"We do think there are possibilities with a provincial partner. We need the chiefs and councils to support us with their BCRs. We also need the corporations to come along side, we are a registered charitable organization and we can offer a tax receipt," said Hill.

paNOW has tried to contact MP Randy Hoback for comment. A spokesperson for his office confirmed they were aware of the situation and would comment once they had more information.

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On Twitter: @nigelmaxwell
 

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