The Central Okanagan School District will explore a partnership with the Metis Society to build an Urban Aboriginal Head Start Preschool in Rutland.
The proposal has evolved from ongoing discussions around the need to build more culturally responsive transition practices for Indigenous families in the school district.
The Aboriginal Head Start program was created in 1995 as a national community-based early intervention initiative, designed to deliver holistic programs to enhance spiritual, emotional, physical and social wellbeing among Indigenous children up to age six and their families.
The program targets three distinct Indigenous peoples’ groups—First Nations, Metis and Inuit—and has been established at 134 sites across Canada.
Trustee Chris Gorman said there is still much work to do in working out the program delivery, from the Metis Society applying for funding support to what school the program could be located.
There are currently two preferred choices in Rutland—South Rutland Elementary and Springvalley Elementary. A consultation report with both school communities will be provided to the school board at the Nov. 21 meeting by the planning and facilities committee with a site recommendation.
Metis Society funding needs would involve a capital grant to purchase a portable and have it placed on that school site.
Rutland was chosen as the ideal location due to accessibility and having the largest number of urban Aboriginal families within the school district communities.
Other elementary schools considered as potential sites included Belgo, Black Mountain, Ellison, Pearson Road, Quigley and Rutland.
Quigley and Pearson Road were ruled out due to already hosting programs offered to serve Aboriginal families while Ellison was felt not accessible to families living in Rutland who rely on public transportation.