Calgary, AB | Grades K - 10 | Shortlist
We took our son out of publicFrench immersion because of difficulties with comprehension and anxiety related to attending school. Our son is definitely a fidgety introvert with a love for all things technology, and a requirement for copious physical exercise. He immediately felt at home at North Point. Initially we had concerns with giving students the option to socialize and go outside for recess, or play on the computers. However, the staff listened to our concerns and he now goes out nearly everyday. He is thriving academically, something I doubted would occur at his previous school, and he has found a group of friends whom he loves. He looks forward to everyday at school, and his teachers just seem to get him, and actively encourage him to push himself. This is a school which seems appropriately “laid back” but academically-oriented at once. Love for the outdoors is actively nurtured, with action Friday and surprise “Mountain days”. The boys who attend this school are considerate and sweet-natured, as evidenced by encountering them on a hike near Banff. If I weren’t a parent, I would have written the school to commend them on their students’ behaviour. This is a school for the boy who functions best with a healthy dose of exercise, and is able to work independently with some helpful encouragement from a teacher. The staff appear committed to bringing out potential. And they are easily approachable, and pretty funny! Lastly, I nearly broke down in tears, when on his last report card, I read “he is a model student”. Words I thought would never apply to my quirky boy!
School leadership is very much open to expressing concerns and coming up with a mutual approach. There is a monthly newsletter, as well as grade-specific emails to keep parents up to date. The 5 R’s are emphasized on a multitude of occasions, and poor behaviour is given swift attention. My son had an unfortunate incident with another child, and we recieved feedback quickly as to the consequences for that child and a plan moving forward, the child is still attending, but I understand with special provisions.
Very invested teachers, who are able to bring forth strengths in their students. Our son has some issues with getting frustrated easier than most when he doesn't understand the instructions, or he has done an equation in haste and it is incorrect. They are able to diffuse this, and do so with humour, but more importantly, they take the time to make it a positive experience. In so doing, he is finding he gets frustrated less. Some classes are split, but because the class sizes are small, and the curriculum is competence-based (as opposed to grade-based), it doesn't seem to be an issue. Some kids in his grade are doing math a few years above their level and others may be slightly below their grade-level, but you don't advance until you have mastered the appropriate level.
The strengths are the teachers themselves, as well as allowing a student to move if need be. Starting most days after physical education allows them to be calm and ready to learn. The roots to stem program introduces kids to the possibilities afforded in the sciences/engineering fields, and allows them to understand abstract concepts when applied to real life experimentation. The financial academy is also a unique learning opportunity. I love that my son understands the concept of compound interest at an early age. This culminates in the business fair every year, where each boy must put together a business plan and sell his wares at the fair and explain to the judges how he determined the price of his products, and how they were concieved. These are skills that will hopefully serve him well throughout his life, and in my opinion, should be taught in every school. The one weakness would be the languages classes, which really are duolingo online. I don’t find them overly effective, but that is not a large concern.
This is a small school, and so the extracurricular opportunities are perhaps more limited by the nature of its size. That said, there is an optional after school engineering academy in the second semester, hockey plays a large part in this school, with many kids practicing before school starts with the school. There are sports teams which you can try out for as well. Every year the grade 6-9 classes get a chance to go on an adventure during spring break. Last year was Moab where they rock-climbed, hiked and mountain biked. Awesome! There were etiquette lessons last year, called the "gentlemen of North Point", I hope that this is a recurring event. There are no clubs that I'm aware of, but perhaps as the school grows, these will become possibilities.
The student body is on the smaller size, but has already grown a fair amount in the last year. The boys genuinely look happy, and respect does permeate the atmosphere. When I walk in the door, the boys greet me politely, and will look for my son and tell him I'm there. I would say that the general atmosphere is a feeling of positive energy mixed with humour and a can do spirit. It would seem that the students are chosen if they have something to add which is a positive to the school. As mentioned earlier, I met the boys hiking on a trail in Banff, and most didn't recognize me, but greeted me enthusiastically, asked if they could pet my dog, and offered to get out of the way on narrow sections. I think that encounter embodied what this school hopes to achieve with our boys.
My son absolutely loves this school, and this is a kid who was miserable in a public school where he was seen as a bit different, and required more attention from his teacher than the other kids. I think that the quality of teaching allowed him to show what he is capable of achieving, his joy for being at school allows him to free up energy to devote to learning. He is thriving academically, and because of the low student to teacher ratio, his teachers understand how to get him quickly back on track, something that didn't happen at his previous school. I don't want to give the impression that this is a school for someone with a significant learning disorder, it doesn't have the supports in place. In our case, most of the issues stemmed from anxiety surrounding learning in a second language. For my son, this has been a game changer, and I'm in awe of his new found confidence. He genuinely likes all of his teachers, and his classmates.
As a parent you can be as involved as much or little as possible. The students are encouraged to consider the community around them (shovelling sidewalks, handing out candy canes to neighboring homes), as well as making backpacks up for those less fortunate with the charity Stephen's backpacks. The parents have an organization by the name of "Friends of North Point" which is a parent teacher association. Thanks to this organization we have fun lunches, can give feedback to teachers, and get to know the other families. There aren't a ton of volunteer opportunities, which, as a full time working mother/father, is somewhat of a relief. When my kids were in the public system, I often felt guilty that I wasn't able to do more to volunteer.
A central location in a community undergoing gentrification. The one issue is lack of bussing on the south side of the city. This is a difficulty, but we have found a few other parents who can help us out on the days which we can't pick up. I'm hoping that as the school grows, transportation will become more widespread throughout the city.
Very informal meet and greet with Mr. D, as the kids call him. Kids have to write an entrance examination for around 2 hours (not sure which grade that starts in), which also likely serves the dual purpose of seeing how serious they are about attending. The founder herself, Ms. Pirie gave us a personal tour. We explained some of the issues which he had at his previous school, and they didn't seem to feel that it would be as much of an issue with their approach to learning, they were right. I felt that they try to see the potential in kids who may not perform as well in the traditional school setting, looking for the strengths to emphasize. Again, this is not a school for kids with significant challenges, most of the boys seem to be excellent student/peers, I am merely relating our experience.