March 25, 2014 09:00 ET

Private School: When Faced With Few Options; Couple Builds Their Own

- Richmond parents celebrate first year with new independent school with an emphasis on integration of Fine Arts

RICHMOND, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - March 25, 2014) - When it comes to education some parents want more options for their children. The public system often struggles to get funding and because of that many schools simply can't offer the kinds of programs parents would like to expose their kids to. As well, public schools are often subjected to job action, and many private schools are often religious based. Still others feel private education is simply better than what public schools can provide. So with a lack of options what are parents to do?

In the case of Anne Yu and her husband Winfred Liu, they created their own secular, co-ed private elementary school. They started Pythagoras Academy in Richmond in January last year (2013).

"We didn't feel like we had options we were satisfied with," says Liu. "We knew we wanted our children to go to a private school, but at the same time I didn't want to go along with certain beliefs to make it happen or travel a great distance every day. There is no other private school in Richmond so we recognized a need."

Yu and Liu do not have educational backgrounds and are not teachers themselves. But what they did do is what smart entrepreneurs do. They achieved their vision by surrounding themselves with a faculty that has extensive experience in developing private school curriculums.

Clive Austin is the Head of Pythagoras and brings with him a rich history of success with other notable Lower Mainland schools such as West Point Grey Academy and St. Georges in Vancouver.

"The difference in this school is that we have been able to offer an academic program fully integrating arts and performance," asserts Austin. "Independent schools allow teachers to express themselves a little differently and they have the full support of the administration to do it."

The school is developing a robust fine arts program that is being blended with academics and sciences. They are in partnership with Go Ballet and the Arts Umbrella who are helping develop programs for the school.

Parent Dana Gordon, whose son Aiden attends Pythagoras, says she's impressed with what the school has accomplished in such a short while.

"I really like the teaching philosophy here, the combination of academics and fine arts, and how they intertwine together."

Class size has been a contentious issue for public schools where many teachers feel overwhelmed by the sheer numbers and students feel lost among the crowd. Not at Pythagoras, where the class size remains small, from Junior Kindergarten to the higher grades.

The goal at Pythagoras is to achieve diversity both academically and within the student body. They even offer classes in Mandarin for those parents who would like to see their children embrace the Asian culture.

"We have a terrific language program," says Yu. "On top of being able to offer Mandarin classes, all of our students take French classes from Junior Kindergarten to grade 7."

"The biggest hurdle was getting the building ready for students," says Yu. "We made some cosmetic changes and created a beautiful place for students to come to each and every day. We are very proud of what we have been able to accomplish in the first year."

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