Deciding whether to send your children to a faith-based school can be a tough call. “Parents might want to expose their children to more diversity at a public school and address faith at home, or they may want their children to attend a school that represents their own faith,” says Ken Brien, an associate professor in the faculty of education at the University of New Brunswick.
While there’s no black and white answer, Brien says key considerations often include whether schools in your area recognize and respect your religious holidays or if they follow a curriculum that includes material you are uncomfortable with. “One of the biggest factors for parents would be the extent to which they see public schools as being hostile to their faith,” he says. “Another big factor is cost.”
Ray Hendriks, director of advancement for the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools, says many independent Christian schools offer family tuition rates to help address affordability issues, particularly for large families. “In many of our schools, the per-family rate is equivalent to many other schools’ per-student rate,” he says. Participating schools engage in fundraising activities to offset the family discounts.
Al Kiel says a key factor in his decision to send his son Andrew to St. Michael’s College School, an all-boys’ Catholic school in Toronto, Ontario in Grade 8 was the feedback he heard from other parents about its above-average academics. “The pace and level of core classes like math and sciences was accelerated. There was no comparison,” he says.
Michael Bazzochi, who completed Grade 12 at St. Michael’s two years ago, says his high school experience was more meaningful because the school is run by the Basilian Fathers. “The presence of the Fathers really makes a difference,” Michael says. “They are inspiring individuals and great teachers, available at any time and are great role models.”
Father Patrick Fulton describes St. Michael’s as a big family and says the administration’s guidance extends beyond reading, writing and arithmetic. The school encourages students to give back to the community. “The students do everything—from shoveling walks to Habitat for Humanity to travelling to places like St. Lucia and Ecuador during Mission Week,” he says.