An integrated educational community in Sackville through diverse partnerships
Since 2015, Sackville Schools 2020 has worked to develop an innovative vision of education for Sackville. This has involved consultation with members of our local community, the schools, the Town, non-profit groups, the university, parents, families, and of course, the students themselves. We have presented our vision to the District Education Council, with the Department of Education, our Provincial MLA and our Federal representatives. In addition, we have visited many local and international schools, consulted with a variety of experts, and formed partnerships with educational experts all over the world.
Throughout this whole process, Sackville Schools 2020 has investigated 21st century educational practices and spaces. Such practices tend to emphasize skills and competencies, rather than memorization of content. They also view education in connection with location, with attention given to facility design and strong community engagement. So, instead of being associated only with what happens inside school buildings, education is part of the expansiveness of community life.
Our vision for education in Sackville is that of an “integrated educational community.” This isn’t necessarily a new idea for learning in Sackville but builds upon what is already happening. Here, education regularly crosses traditional boundaries between school and community, university and Town, business and learning. This model works now and has many benefits, and we can build upon this foundation for even more wonderful outcomes once access to such opportunities are expanded and enriched. Giving students even more chances to tackle real-life problems through engaging local projects can help develop citizenship skills and encourage more connection with the town in which they live.
One exciting discovery we made recently was that a proven model for a community/school partnership exists nearby. École Carrefour Beausoleil is in the Miramichi, and a part of the Francophone Sud School District. It is an inspiring community school—where the school is inside a community centre. The community centre is run by a non-profit board and is committed to providing resources and connections to the school, maintaining all infrastructure, and partnering with the community. Everything they do is to ensure the best possible education for the children that they serve. A community/school partnership shares resources, which allows them to be able to do more than what could be accomplished alone. In Sackville, a similar resource-sharing model already exists between the Town, RCMP, and fire department.
There are a number of benefits to such a model—diverse funding sources, local autonomy and broad accessibility being just a few. Although it would need to be adapted to fit the Sackville context, this model is worth examining more closely. Imagine a community centre that functions as an educational “hub” where the schools, the Province, community groups, the university, and the Town all converge. Where education, health, culture, and recreation are all connected. It certainly seems to offer a proven, concrete idea of what might otherwise seem a rather abstract concept: this notion of an “integrated educational community.”
One of the most exciting things about the work of Sackville Schools 2020 has been witnessing the reaction of those people who hear of our vision and imagine the possibilities. Often this reaction is something along the lines of “what an incredible community”, and other times it is involves more of an “I wonder…”. Certainly, Sackville’s reality and its possibilities have struck a chord at the Provincial level (and beyond) and things are already underway to make this vision a reality. As we await further announcements, we are excited to consider other ways in which we might confirm Sackville as a remarkable place to learn, raise a family, work, and to live.