Group of Willowstone parents working to save Kelowna school

Parents work to save school

While the Willowstone Academy's current location has been purchased by Kelowna Christian School, a group of parents are fighting to keep the private, Christian-based school alive.

Last week, Kelowna Christian School announced it has purchased the First Lutheran Church and Willowstone Academy property at 4091 Lakeshore Road, and the current Willowstone location would become the third campus of Kelowna Christian School.

As part of the agreement, Willowstone will cease its operations at its current location after June 2023. First Lutheran Church will continue to operate in its existing location.

But while KCS said it will provide “priority admission” to former Willowstone students, a group of parents are hoping to move Willowstone to a new location.

“When we got the news of the school potentially closing, there were a group of parents who said what if there could be a different solution?” said Alexandra Krieger, one of the Willowstone parents working to save the school.

Krieger says the group has received the blessing from Willowstone's board to explore finding a new location for the school.

“There's still steps involved for them to give us a final blessing in a formal way, the legal steps involved, obviously,” Kreiger said. “That still needs to be worked through but they have given us the blessing to explore the opportunity right now and come back with the plan. And this is all moving extremely fast.

“We want to make sure we respect the process. And we also respect any concerns [the board] have. So we have a chance to work through all that at the moment.”

The school offers Christian-based education from infant/toddler ages through to Grade 9, and about 230 students are currently enrolled there.

Last month, Willowstone chair of the Board Ross Langford announced the school was in “an unsustainable and grim financial position,” due to increasing rental and operational costs, along with reduced enrolment.

Krieger says while they can't yet announce any details about their plans yet, they'll be looking to reimagine Willowstone Academy to make it more financially sustainable.

“There is a different path forward and that is partially where that path forward of Willowstone being on their own,” Krieger says.

“With the understanding that there will always be a friendship ... we want to always honour the legacy of what First Lutheran Church has given us by starting the school in the first place. We never want that history to get lost.”

Krieger is hoping to host a townhall meeting to update Willowstone parents on their work in the next couple weeks.

“Registration typically starts around January, February, for the September [2023] school year,” she said. “So we want to make sure by the time we hit that date, we can at least be further ahead than we are right now by providing a little bit of clarity for parents, to say come on the journey with us.”

She said their top priority is to have Willowstone open for the 2023/24 school year.

“Willowstone is a very special school community,” she said. “I love the school because my daughter Catherine loves the school.

“When the news broke of this potential sale to KCS, that night there were a lot of tears in our house. But that night, [Catherine] asked me, 'Isn't there a possibility to have Willowstone somewhere else?' And I said, 'Yeah, I think so.'”

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