REVIEW OF The Country Day School BY parent, Sarah Hepburn
- Date of Review
May 04, 2022
Gr. 5 - 12
(5) Student Experience
I have been a parent at The Country Day School since 2014 when my boys started in grade 5. Throughout their years at the school they have grown as individuals be it through the smaller, more personalized classes, the extra curricular activities they have participated in or the trips they have gone on through the school. Now, in grade twelve, they are well prepared for university and the world beyond The Country Day School. The community has been what has made the difference. My boys have made friendships that I know they will have for life. Both my boys participated in the sports extracurriculars and thrived. Getting in early to basketball or soccer practice or playing around on the hill at snowboarding events with their teammates are memories they will cherish forever.
(5) School Leadership
Having been a parent since my children were in grade five I have had the opportunity to interact with the school leadership across all levels from the junior school and through the middle and senior schools. At all points the school leadership communicated openly and in a timely fashion. There is a weekly newsletter called "The Backpack" which is a helpful tool to keep up-to-date on events at the school, news in student life and helps parents to stay on top of key dates and other things we need to know.
The faculty at the school have been key in shaping my boys into the young men they are today. When they were in the junior school it felt like a warm hug as they were guided forward at every turn with kindness and gentle encouragement. When they moved into the middle and senior schools the faculty saw through their awkward and sometimes not so great tweeny-teen behaviour to appreciate them for young adults they were growing into. The teachers found ways to connect with learners in a variety of ways and utilized the amazing outdoor space as teaching space at every opportunity. I loved seeing kids learning outside when I drove into the school. The teachers always believed the best in my boys even in the most awkward of stages. Now, in grade 12, it has been amazing to see the level of mutual respect and shared excitement for the future between student and teacher.
The Country Day School follows a rigorous academic standard. What makes it exceptional is the school's commitment to present the material in a way that acknowledges the varied learning styles and academic abilities of the students. For one of my boys, academic excellence is not something that has come easily to him. Yet, with persistence and patience the faculty at The Country Day School coaxed him forward throughout the years including the pandemic online learning phases where it was hard to find any motivation for school! He has now been accepted to his first choice of university and this would not have happened without the care, kindness and focus on academic excellence that throughout his years at the school. The school cares about the long term success of each student and holds everyone to a high standard.
The Country Day School offers a variety of extracurricular activities. My boys were particularly involved in sports during their time at the school. This included more traditional sports like soccer and basketball but also a snowboarding team as well. The Country Day School offers opportunities to participate in sports at all levels. Kids might not make the first team but there is an opportunity for them to compete on a second team and still experience all that sport has to offer.
The Country Day School is not a small school by any stretch but because it is spread from JK to grade 12 it retains a smaller school feel. As a parent of twins it was important to us that our boys could be in separate homeroom classes and CDS was able to accommodate this. What has been amazing to see as the boys have moved into their later years at CDS is how tight their year is. Everyone genuinely supports each other and I have seen this at sporting events and witnessed the laughter and camaraderie at pick up each day. In grade 12 there is a lounge area just for the graduating year and my boys have loved having that space to hang out with their friends.
(5) School Life
I can honestly say that I have never heard my boys complain about going to school. Literally not once. Even during times where they were finding the school work hard or were going through a tween or teen thing they were always happy to go each day. They were able to find something about each day that made them happy. Be it themed grub days, activities like the outdoor Terry Fox run through the beloved "back 40" fields or just every day giggles in the hallway school has been a happy place for them. The boys felt a sense of belonging at CDS. They weren't some invisible face. Other students knew who they were, teachers knew their names and there was always a friendly smile or wave to be had.
I have volunteered in a variety of capacities throughout my time as a parent at The Country Day School. When I was new to the school I became a grade parent which was a great opportunity to get to know other parents, the students and how the school worked. I have also volunteered in The General Store which I loved helping students find what they needed be it school supplies or uniform items. I have also had the privilege of volunteering as a judge at the debating competitions CDS has hosted. Everyone feels welcome from the moment they step into the school. The school leadership makes a point of thanking volunteers and speaking to each of us personally at the annual volunteer breakfast. I am so happy to see parents back in the school building after a prolonged pandemic absence.
(4) School Location
When my boys were younger they stayed at the school for the whole day. The school tends to operate in more of a bubble though because of its location - you have to walk down busy Dufferin with no sidewalks (yet!) so kids don't leave for lunch. Starting in grade 11 kids are allowed to leave the school grounds for their spares and often go to Tim Hortons or the like (as many teenagers do!). I am glad they get this opportunity from a teenage independence perspective.
The admissions process in the junior school was very different than the process we just went through with my son who is starting in grade 9 next year. In the junior school the boys had an interview with the director of admissions and then spent a day in a classroom. The teacher was able to assess them as part of their day in the classroom. For admission to the senior school my son had to do an interview and a written exam. The admissions staff were great at keeping us updated throughout the process and documents were easily sent to the school but uploading them through the online portal vs dealing with emailing back and forth. The tour was key for my youngest son in particular. It gave him a fresh perspective on the school which helped as he only knew what he had heard from his brothers!
(5) University placement and counselling
The university placement process has been first class. The boys have been supported throughout by regular communications from the school team and the director of university admissions has an open door, anytime policy. This accessibility has helped my boys by answering questions about what the process is for certain schools, suggestions on completing supplemental applications and general brainstorming in cases where they kids might not have been totally sure what they wanted to apply to. As parents navigating the intense world of university admissions the school was super supportive. We attended a presentation at the start of the school year that covered things like key dates, typical admissions requirements and other information that we would have otherwise had to research ourselves. If you only go to CDS for the counselling support during the university admissions process you are miles ahead of other schools.