Orangeville, ON | Grades JK - 8 | Shortlist
My children all very much love attending OCS. "I like centres", "I like gym", "I like my friends", "I like my teacher". The school has provided a community environment that our family really appreciates. My kids enjoy the curriculum, and also the extracurricular activities that OCS provides. The school makes it easy for me to allow them to participate by providing before- and after- school care (SHARE). The environment allows them to grow solid friendships; we have been impressed with how the children are encouraged to engage with each other; OCS has created a team within the school that builds confidence and connection within the student body. We really appreciate how the stereotypical barriers of grade, age, gender seem to have been broken down.
OCS's leadership has a positive impact and delivers clear direction to the school community, especially recently as we have dealt with the pandemic. Administration works hard to communicate plans, and also seeks out feedback from parents to ensure that things are on track. As the curriculum needed to adapt to an online platform I was impressed with the school's agility to deliver, their ability to adjust based on feedback sought out by them, and most importantly with the quality of the curriculum itself. To date, the approach is similar for the return to school plans which is great.
The teacher's dedication, and connection with their students stands out at OCS well above any experience our family had in the public system. We truly see that the teachers our children had this year express sincere love for their students; we appreciate their role in helping us raise our children in the faith, while they also deliver the education necessary for them to progress in school. The parent-teacher interviews, Zoom calls, emails, report cards, and sometimes quick chats at morning drop off keep us well connected in ensuring our kids are supported to succeed. I'm thrilled to say that they have been honest with us (my son failed a science project - and he deserved it), so that we can zero in on what needs to be worked on - be it academics, through to simply attention to detail and following instructions.
The school brings a level of responsibility back onto the children in the classroom - some of the experiences we have had remind me of exercises we did when we (the parents) were in elementary school - examples of this include science fairs, speeches, homework, and frequent testing. Albeit as a parent I monitor my children to ensure the work is completed, I have noticed that the children see the work as their job to get done (vs. mine to ensure they get something handed in). There is good communication back home when assignments/tests aren't getting the grades that would be expected, and there is also communication back home when a child is thriving. The math and writing programs are more advanced than what we have experienced in the past in the public system, and I know this first hand as I had the pleasure of teaching it myself for a few months earlier this year (and could compare notes with a few other mom friends doing the same).
Extracurriculars at OCS are meeting needs of our family. My kids have felt empowered to try out for things that they would have otherwise been intimidated to try out for. The SHARE program has made it work for our family as well as we have two working parents - we can schedule before- or after-care for the others to allow the one participating to make practices or games.
My children developed new, and also strengthened existing relationships with students at OCS quickly when we joined. When you walk in the door of the school you see a list of responsibilities that have been assigned out to students for a given time frame - allowing them to engage not only with their friends but also with other students and families. I have found that the parents are connected as well with quick calls or text messages to ask about kids hanging out together, going skiing, youth group, etc. This has really helped in securing these relationships allowing them to hopefully reach beyond their years at OCS. I appreciate that the school is not too big, and especially that all children (regardless of gender and age) are encouraged to play safely together. My children come home and talk about games played on the playground - they played TOGETHER with their friends (SK, GR5 and GR7). In our old school these children were physically separated and never saw each other until bus time. My Gr. 7 son's friends high five my SK daughter in the morning and say good morning to her by name - we love that!
My children love attending OCS, and they have very much missed it during these months away due to the pandemic. The school environment is one that encourages them to be themselves, challenges them to do their best, and reminds them that they are loved and matter very much. The kids respect their teachers, and know most of them at the school quite personally (in a relatively short amount of time) - from the JK teacher who gives you smarties when you lose a tooth to the Principal who gets the humour/sarcasm of his older students to the teacher who actually weeps with joy when she sees a young boy excited to join a Zoom call to see his friends and talk about his week.
I have seen that the school works hard to enable families to get involved. We started with a welcoming tour, then a parent information night (that was full of information that was very helpful in understanding how to settle in), and from there we have noted that the opportunities are endless in when it comes to volunteering or supporting the school however possible as a parent. We appreciate the Chalk Talk parent letter sent out; this letter is a great way to plug in and get connected when you can. We have also noticed that the broader community extends to grandparents and extended family members as well - we feel very blessed to be able to surround our children with other believers who sincerely care about teaching and raising them to live a life for God (and that we have the privilege to do the same for others).
The school is in the country, albeit pretty close to town. To overcome this when it is a problem, the school works to establish parent drivers to get the children to where they might need to be (when travel to Orangeville or elsewhere might be required). Children generally remain on the school grounds unless there is an organized outing planned.