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Community and parental involvement

Often, the tight-knit community found in a private school can only be truly felt on the campus grounds. That's why Gary O'Meara, the headmaster at Armbrae Academy in Halifax, Nova Scotia, encourages all interested students to spend a day at the school to get a genuine sense of the school's family atmosphere, with only one class per grade all the way from preschool to Grade 12. By encouraging teamwork between the grades in assemblies, school projects and house competitions, students feel comfortable peeking into classrooms just to say "Hi," comforting an upset classmate or begging their parents to pick them up from school at the very last moment.

"Our kids genuinely know each other, their quirks, their likes, their dislikes," O'Meara says. "Being a bigger school may mean more money, but we want to keep this community and cultivate it."

And parents are just as integral to the school as the students. They volunteer for field trips, act as guest speakers and organize school fundraisers. They have a significant voice on the board of governors, and have open lines of communication with the faculty to ensure Armbrae is living up to its reputation.

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