Coast Mountain Academy readies launch of crowdfunding campaign for new campus 

Squamish independent school sets initial goal of $250,000

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For a school that largely eschews traditional education models, it's no wonder that Squamish's Coast Mountain Academy (CMA) is taking a more modern approach to funding.

The independent school, which opened its doors on Quest University land to 15 students in September, is set to launch a campaign on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, with a goal of $250,000 that will help accommodate the academy's rapid growth.

Administrators expect close to 50 students enrolled for the 2014/15 school year, and 120 by 2016/17, the first year Grade 12 will be offered. Currently, only Grades 7 to 10 are offered.

"I'm really encouraged by what's happening," said head of school Dave Baird. "To go from 15 students when we opened to 40 or 50 students in one year, that's community support."

Baird said more parents are buying into the school's experiential approach to education, blended with a strong focus on the environment.

"Some of our growth that's coming now is (due to) people realizing we're doing what we said we were going to do... with the academic programming that we're offering and the programming we do every Friday that integrates what happens in the classroom with the (outdoor) resources in the Sea to Sky area," he said, in reference to students' weekly field trips.

With the growing interest, however, come added costs, and the campaign, which officially launches Tuesday, June 24, is aimed at raising funds to establish a temporary campus on Quest land, hire additional teachers and acquire classroom supplies, as well as a small bus to transport students from Whistler to Squamish. The money would also go towards erecting an outbuilding to securely store students' bicycles ahead of the CMA's establishment of a mountain bike academy. Students are currently housed in Quest University facilities.

The school also touts a strong technological focus in the classroom, with students relying not on worksheets but tablet computers. The tablets are borrowed, however, and the campaign would help the school purchase its own devices it can then pair with another innovative technology, which allows students to take part in classwork from anywhere in the world.

The academy was recently gifted eight Kubi robotic tablet carts, which are outfitted with pan and tilt controls so remote students can use their tablet's camera to video conference with their teacher and classmates.

Local businessman Rob Darnborough said he was attracted to the school for many reasons, but it was administrators' openness to new technologies that cemented his decision to send one of his sons to CMA this fall.

"That's what I think attracted me to Coast Mountain, when I introduced the idea of Kubi, they were all over it," he said. "We're going to have snowstorms in Whistler, parents are going to be concerned about their kids getting to school, and here's a great way they can log into the classroom, be a part of the class and interact."

Darnborough is also a member of CMA's fundraising committee and proposed the idea to crowdfund Phase 1 of the school's ultimate goal of raising $5 million to establish a permanent campus.

"If the school wants to be a school of the future, I think we have to use the new world of raising funds and go away from bake sales and all the basic stuff that everyone else does," Darnborough said.

The Indiegogo campaign is also a great way for students to pick up some entrepreneurial skills that will benefit them in their post-secondary lives and careers, Darnborough said. Not only will the students learn about crowdfunding in the classroom, but also will be actively involved in creating content for the campaign, like a video that will feature prominently on the campaign's webpage.

"For the kids' sake, why not help them learn how to fund their own new home by using a format that is widely popular today but known very little by adults?" Darnborough asked.

With a third of the $250,000 goal already secured, largely from parent donations, Baird is hopeful the public sees the benefit of investing in the future of Coast Mountain Academy, and the corridor as a whole.

Coast Mountain Academy will host a groundbreaking ceremony at Quest for its new temporary campus on Tuesday at 4 p.m., followed by a barbecue at Baird's house. The event will also mark the official launch of the campaign, which can be viewed at

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