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An atmosphere of caring


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Review of: Briercrest Christian Academy

LOREE BUCK - Parent    (Jan 30, 2018)

Student Experience

The atmosphere at CHS is one of caring for the whole person of the student. The teachers are not just ramming the curriculum through, but really wanting the students to enjoy the learning process and feel cared for as individuals. Sometimes, the caring seemed to feel smothering, depending on which of our four kids you would talk to. The girls soaked up the personal interaction that was available with their teachers. Our son is less inclined to get personal. One of our daughters was injured in a car accident in the fall of one year, and ALL of her teachers in the first and second term took extra measures to accommodate her - one even gave up hours of his personal time to teach her one on one, so that she didn't fall behind. Our son suffers from migraine headaches - he never feels like his teachers are unsympathetic, but rather are wanting to help him understand the causes and how to avoid them if possible. I am frequently asked if he is stressed over something that they can help him with...they care about the long term not just when the students are with them. The level of encouragement that our kids received to try out new things and the appreciation of their achievements from the staff and faculty of CHS was amazing.


School Leadership

The Vice Principles are almost always around and easy to connect with. The VP's are both extremely involved in the extracurricular activities of the students. I have seen them make decisions that are better for the student than for their respective teams, putting the student at a higher priority than the status of their team. They all strive to create a positive and holistic experience for the student body, and will reach out to learn the needs of some who may not fit into the normal mold. The discipline is consistent and expectations are spelled out clearly in the student handbook and in their student chapels. Not having had much need for discipline for our kids at the school level, leaves me slightly disadvantaged in answering the discipline question. We receive frequent communications (monthly newsletters, and more) from the leadership.


Teaching

I have always felt that CHS is the equivalent to the higher level of schooling found in special schools in other provinces where high achievers are sent. Our connection and opportunities with Briercrest College and their faculty provides a unique setting that raises the bar. Our teachers ARE passionate about their subjects and want to convey that to their students. My kids didn't always catch the passion, but definitely recognized it in their teachers, and were impressed by it. Our online course management system is used inconsistently across the teacher group and therefore not used to its fullest potential. Some teachers use it to include all upcoming assignments with due dates right at the start of the semester - providing a tool whereby students and parents can plan ahead. Other instructors only put this information into the system after the due date has passed and they are preparing to enter the marks of the completed assignments. Some are reluctant to use due dates at all, because they allow this date to float quite a bit. The inconsistency has caused frustration for some of our kids, and complacency in others about what is expected in the school work. Our kids who were up to the challenge, chose to take college level courses during their high school time. This was very enriching. On the other end of the scale, i felt like the term average was overused, and given as a reason to not explore avenues of assistance/limitations that could be provided.


Academics

Academically, with the connection to the College, i feel that the bar is definitely high. The quality of instruction at the high school and college level is exceptional for the high school students. Generally, there is no lack of academic challenge - just sometimes the student is lacking in the verve to step up to the challenge. This year was the first time we experienced a required course that was not offered in the classroom, requiring our child to complete it online, with an offsite instructor. The first term was coming to a close when we finally received an email that there had not been any submissions for almost two months. If it hadn't been for this online course experience, i would have been able to completely agree that ALL of our children would be able to jump off their experience at CHS, fully prepared for their life's next steps. The rating WOULD have been a 9-10, except for this.


Extracurriculars

There is no shortage of extra curricular opportunities for students at CHS. Whether artistic, athletic or observer, there are lots of activities to engage in. With the many college level teams that are hosted on the same campus, students can also enjoy watching the next level of play. With a large family, there were times when I moaned about ALL that there was to do in the extracurricular arena, taking the kids back out of the home in the evenings. We did enjoy the sporting events that our kids were part of and appreciated the team building skills that they learned, though. The best and most influential extracurricular activities were the spiritual emphasis weeks. Even when the kids doubted that they would gain anything, they were amazed at the impact they received from the extra focused instruction and appreciated getting to know their leaders in different ways.


Students

I would consider the student body to be small in size. But the group can put on a big school atmosphere with their enthusiasm and level of engagement. There is a caring atmosphere in the school, extending from student to student and student to teacher, along with the teacher to student care. Unlike the high school I attended, one doesn't see hall way fights, or hear name calling or other forms of disrespect in the hallways. When a student in the school is known to be dealing with something like illness or crisis, the somber response is indicative of the care the students have for their fellow student. Even though there are many different teams that a CHS student can be involved in, i believe the greater team atmosphere is taught by the teachers and upheld by the student body.


School Life

Our kids have loved going to school at CHS. For them, having grown up in Caronport, they would have felt like they had been put out to sea if CHS had not been their option. There were brief periods of time when the only thing missing from their school experience at CHS was the dorm life. For most of the years our kids were at CHS, the community group of students outnumbered the dorm group, so this didn't last long. A lot of the extra curricular experiences included all students together. For the most part, our kids didn't feel like they were short changed in their options. I feel like the sporting events, both at the high school and college level were a great way for the dorm students to rub shoulders with the families of Caronport. This community provides a very unique setting for the high school that adds to the care and nurture of all the students. The opportunity to be in the same context as the Bible College students also lends to the amazing atmosphere at CHS.


Community

Parents are welcome almost anywhere the students will be during the school year. The openness and inviting atmosphere is inspiring. Like most any other community, there are some individuals who are always doing, planning and carrying out the events that take place. But there is always opportunity for parent involvement - I have very rarely been turned down when I offered help. The surrounding community of families are always interested in the success of the high school and its teams, events and activities. Their presences on a cold afternoon in the fall to watch the high school football team is very encouraging for the players, and usually a surprise to the parents of dorm students who make it out to the games. I see community also in the way that the college staff, teachers and coaches are also engaged at the high school level - either in coaching, mentoring or otherwise supporting CHS.


School Location

With having been community members while our kids attended CHS, we didn't feel that the school was an island. If our kids had had close friends that were part of the dorm program, they were equally welcome to visit our home as any other friend. Of course, there was a need for some separation between the community and the dorm, as that staff group had to manage different expectations from the many families that they served. I feel that the extracurricular activities were a great way for the community and school to blend in a very supportive way. The community is the source for many volunteers that help in many events that are part of the student experience at CHS. In one sense, the location outside the city of Moose Jaw, separated by flat prairie high way, could create the sense of an island. I believe that this inspires the closeness that is experience by CHS students as they look to each other for their entertainment and need for activity.


Admissions

Our kids went all the way through the schools in this community. The admission process for them seemed straight forward and not stressful. I believe that the experience CHS events have been inspiring even for our kids as they were invited over from the elementary school to spend the day at CHS. The repetitive forms that have been required by the school system for all 13 years of our kids' school career has been the most frustrating part of any admission, not just CHS. I am told that this is not anything that CHS can change. Having a dedicated admissions staff member that knows all there is to know about CHS means that even the kids know who they need to talk to. Also, having several members of the staff community who have had children going through CHS lent a great resource for us and other families exploring this option.


University placement and counselling

I have heard of a few students who were counselled incorrectly and ended up with incomplete transcripts for what their next steps would be. Sometimes it seems like the students are encouraged to take the easiest path available, if they are uncertain where they will go next. This will often leave them short changed for their entrance options later. I heard, too often, that post secondary education is not required for entrance into (whether it be police, RCMP, firefighting, or EMT), but when I spoke to people working in that field, was informed that it ALWAYS looks better to have at least started down the path for post secondary training, even while waiting for the door to open on the student's first choice program. This is a serious failure on the side of the university counselling at CHS. Even if the student is not intending to go to university or college directly after high school, they should always be encouraged to keep their options open with the choices they make while in high school. If nothing else, it will continue to garner a strong work ethic that will always serve the student well, in whatever their choices are once they leave the supportive environment of CHS.


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