Community schools began in Tignish, Kensington and Mount Stewart as a mid-sixties Rural Development initiative when PEI communities were suffering a severe downturn in farming and fishing with the loss of family farms and local schools. Typical early course topics were typing, knitting and sewing. Today there are approximately 30 locations and 100 courses on topics as diverse as rug-hooking, computer use, literacy, historical buildings, geneaology, Spanish and the violin, as well as many others. The organization has survived for over 50 years with the help of the Provincial Government, who support us yearly with a grant, and Credit Union Central. We are very proud to have published a book for our 50th anniversary.
The volunteer nature of the organization is crucial for its success. No-one is paid except the co-ordinator. PEI is unique, and uniquely successful, with this approach. Last year, over 700 volunteers were involved. Courses are widely accessible as the PEI Association of Community School (PEIACS) brochure goes to over 62,000 homes and students pay only $12-$20 for a ten-week course. Courses are now held in the fall as well as winter, which makes for more opportunity to attend more than one during the year. The brochure goes out in the flyer package between Christmas and New Years for the winter courses and by mail or hand delivered in various communities for the fall courses, as well as printed and on-line advertising. Lunch is provided each night and many classes organize a closing meal so there’s a social element. Student ages range from 12 upwards with many seniors participating. Some seniors residences participate in Community School as well, having many hours of fun and socializing.
Old skills are kept alive, and new skills are learned at Community School and individual opportunities are created.