Local school launches community bond program to help make outdoor education more accessible

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Muskoka Highlands Academy is one step closer to making outdoor education a reality for all parents who want it for their children.

The school recently launched a community bond program to raise capital for school improvements and the launch of a fund to make tuition more accessible to families in the community.

With a long-term goal of achieving charitable status, Muskoka Highlands Academy started the Community Bond Program because community members asked for donations.

“Community Connection is a first step to not only allow us to invest in our school, but also to launch this fund to make tuition more accessible,” says Sheena Repath, founding partner and CEO of MHA. “We have to start small until we get our charitable status.”

The school’s goal is to raise $250,000 by the end of February. They raised about half that amount through community partners and school families.

Bonds can be purchased by community members, organizations or businesses. The school has established three contribution options: $2,500, $5,000 or $10,000. Two terms are available: a three-year term at 4% and a five-year term at 6.5%. The bond will be repaid in full at the end of each of these terms, while interest will be paid annually.

A portion of the funds will be invested in MHA’s arts and language program for the next year, as well as new and improved technology for each of its classrooms. And part of the deposit, regardless of the amount collected, will go to the tuition fund.

School staff are still working on the selection process for the tuition fund. Anyone interested in more information can contact Repath at [email protected]

“We are an outdoor school, but we follow the Ontario curriculum,” she notes. “So, although we are not a forestry school, we leverage outdoor learning to unlock children’s potential. They learn the core curriculum of the public school system, but we take that learning inside and out to make it more engaging and inspire more kids.

The school currently has 44 students from kindergarten to grade 8, four teachers, three support staff and a principal. They split their time throughout the school year between Grandview and Hidden Valley Highlands Ski Area, an arrangement that will continue for the next three years. “We plan to secure our own property and invest in building and developing space for our school,” says Repath.

Kindergarten and Southern MHA students spend about 80 percent of their time outdoors, and students in grades 1-4 learn outdoors 50-60 percent of the time. Students in grades 5-8 spend the least time outdoors, about 30%, because they have to do more computer and office work.

MHA registrations are open for September. For those interested in learning more, there is an open day and sledding on Wednesday February 23 from 4-6pm where you can meet the teachers and tour the school. Email [email protected] to confirm.

The school will soon be launching a website at muskokahighlandsacademy.com. In the meantime, follow them on Facebook here or on Instagram @muskoka.highlands.academy.

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