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Tír na nÓg Forest School Scraps Educational Programming

By Tim Herd Aug 16, 2022 | 2:48 PM

Jay Mantri / Unsplash

The Tir na nÓg Forest School in Saint John will stop offering educational programming as of September.

Owner/operator Tim Jones announced the news in a letter sent to parents and guardians on the weekend.

Jones said all educational programs at the school will be scrapped, including pre-school, elementary and middle school.

“Please be reassured that all deposits will be refunded in full. For our preschool program, we recognize that it may take time for some families to find alternate care, and we will be operating a reduced program during September to help with that transition,” reads the letter.

Jones declined a request for an interview, instead referring us to the letter that was sent to parents.

The decision comes after the recently-announced Canada-New Brunswick Early Learning and Child Care Agreement.

“While we consider many of the objectives of this action plan a positive step for families across this province, unfortunately, it has implications for our operation,” continued the letter.

“As the province transitions Early Childhood Education to publicly managed but privately delivered programs with a mandate to limit profits for operators, it is not feasible to move forward under this model.”

Jones said the school would have been required to increase its child-to-educator ratio to approximately 10:1 to become a designated facility under the funding model.

The school’s existing structure and unique one-of-a-kind programming do not fit within the designation program, he said.

“Our goal and focus have always been on low child-to-educator ratios (5:1) to support children’s health, wellness, and development in safe outdoor play and education,” said the letter.

Jones said the requirement to increase the child-to-educator ratio was “one of the key contributors” to their decision to stop offering educational programs.

He said the school recognized that “significant” tuition increases would be needed to remain sustainable while continuing to operate within the Forest School model they have spent the past decade building.

“The stability of our infrastructure in both the preschool and elementary programming is dependent upon each other. With our Early Childhood Education program representing a significant percentage of our school, the decision to end all programs was the right choice,” said the letter.

Jones said they proposed exploring a partnership with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development to bring outdoor education concepts to other early learning centres, public schools and post-secondary institutions, but the proposal “was not given the consideration or priority that we hoped it would.”

He added that future energies will be redirected to Forest School UniversiTree, where organizers have developed a compilation of resources and training programs to help inspire educators and eliminate barriers to getting children outside.

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