New RVS Learning Centre gives more space for alternative schooling

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Thinking outside the box of traditional school is what has helped 17-year-old T.E. transform from a tense teenager to a bright and dedicated student.

“When I was in regular high school, I was too afraid to ask questions because I thought I was the only one who didn’t know the answer … I wasn’t keeping up with my homework as much,” said the Rocky View Schools Community Learning Centre student. “(Here) I feel more free to ask questions and not feel like I’m dumb if I don’t know the answer. It’s less stressful and it helps me learn better, too.

“It’s all around good.”

The RVS Community Learning Centre was established more than 20 years ago as an alternative to traditional high schools, offering qualifying students more independent workflow, personalized success plans, mental, social and physical health supports and flexible attendance.

Four campuses in Airdrie, Chestermere and Cochrane make up the Grade 7 to 12 program, with 400 youth enrolled across the division.

For years, the Cochrane centre was housed in the same building as the provincial courthouse in Historic Downtown. Teachers said the space was small and the layout challenging, and students said, given the nature of their neighbours, it wasn’t always the best environment to go to school.

Last week, after months of construction, the centre officially showed off its new digs on River Avenue – a space that Rocky View Schools designed specifically with its unique programming options in mind.

A common area anchors the environment – where youth can work on their own or in groups – with teachers’ private rooms and small classes for humanities, math and sciences branching off from the main core. There’s even a kitchen, where students will prepare and serve a Thanksgiving meal later next month for their teachers and peers.

“The old place didn’t have a kitchen,” said vice-principal Heather Fansher. “There are just so many opportunities. It’s like a little gem.”

Student H.J. said both the physical and emotional space at the learning centre has given her the chance to turn her educational life around and do well in school.

“Conventional schooling wasn’t working for me and I had some struggles in my life that made it harder. (Here) there was way more flexibility, which gave me way more ability to cope with my life,” the 16-year-old recalled. “No matter what you’re struggling with, the teachers have really good knowledge about those things and provide a lot of emotional support … No matter what’s going on, you’ve got a safe space to be.”

Fansher said those are the kinds of comments that give her and her teaching staff the inspiration to move every student toward success.

“It’s a cool school.”

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