Our Take: The Country Day School
The Country Day School (CDS) began, literally, over a dinner one evening in 1971. The region was in the process of amalgamating schools, which meant that students who had been attending local schools would be bussed to larger, more suburban ones. That didn’t sit well, in part because of the bussing involved, but also because of the sense of community that students had and, presumably, would lose by going to schools further afield. Seven families decided to do something about it, to take things into their own hands, and to build a school that would continue what had been developed in the rural, country schools that their children had been attending. (The name refers to that, as well as to the country day school movement that had been developing in the US since the late 19th century, with a period of renewed growth in the 1960s and 70s.) They didn’t have any experience building a school, but they turned to those who did, including Dick Howard, then head of Upper Canada College. “You’ve got to get a feel for the community,” was Howard’s advice, “who’s in it and how they perceive education.” And, for the next two years, that’s exactly what they did, speaking with families, and building a conceptual outline for what the school could be.
When CDS opened its doors in 1972, it was, in every way, an expression of the community that created it. The school has grown since then—enrollment has grown from 49 in that first year to over 700 today—and the community it sits within has grown and changed, too. Nevertheless, the school remains very much an expression of the families that turn to it. The size of the school allows for a very rich, robust extra-curricular program, and students are gently required to experience all aspects of it. The physical plant of the school has been significantly augmented through a recent and very sizable capital campaign. The core program continues to be underwritten by the values that the founding families intended to express, namely a sense of belonging, empathy, inclusion, and respect. The ideal student is one able to thrive in a vibrant, diverse, student-centred environment.