REVIEW OF Junior Academy BY parent, Elin Raymond
- Date of Review
June 09, 2022
Gr. 5 - 7
(5) Student Experience
Junior academy has been life changing for our family. My son needs academic and behavioral support to succeed and he has received that and more! Accessing in house behavioral support, and OT has made it much easier for our family and for our son. This school celebrates individual differences and focuses on strength based initiatives. I truly feel that I am part of a team that includes his teachers, the principal/ vice-principal, OT, and the admin/leadership. We have had our school challenges throughout the pandemic but have worked together to move forward. My son has seen such improvement in his social and academic skills that I feel are related to the programming and teachers at JA. This school is amazing at integrating a strength based approach to social , behavioral and academic challenges . We are very grateful!
(5) School Leadership
The school's administrative and academic leadership are outstanding. Matt and Nick Johnston are the admin leaders and are so helpful and responsive. Prompt and closed communication loops that really make life go smoother. Paul Bamberger is the principal and I cannot speak more highly of his skills in managing tricky situations with respect and compassion. Cathy Hibbert is the vice-principal and has been a valuable asset for us both in the classroom and outside. I really wish they would continue Junior Academy as a high school!
The caliber of teaching for the academic and homeroom classes is excellent. They are skilled at communication, adaptive teaching and managing different levels of regulation and academics! The school is flexible and small enough that kids can go ahead or stay reviewing based on their needs and individual skills. I have always felt that I could communicate with any of the staff at any time. Edsby and email and phone calls are all possible and the teachers are highly responsive. The Outdoor Education instruction is also amazing. It has been a great opportunity for my son to get out in the ravine and team build with his peers while learning outside. My son does not take French so I cannot speak to that course.
Junior Academy has the ability to meet the child where they are academically- below, at or above grade level. They can help catch up or provide extra stimulation/academics for kids who need it. They have the ability to place them in groups where they can get support to catch up or be pushed ahead to be stimulated. They strive to see each child from a place of strength rather than challenges. My son was able to add passion projects to his curriculum. They have embedded extra help for LDs and ADHD. They access a huge “educational toolbox “ to provide engaging academics. The classes are small but not too small that they don’t learn the skills of learning in a busy group environment. I have no doubt that my son will be prepared academically for high school.
Prior to COVID there were many lunch and after-hour clubs and activities. There was a soccer team and running club. Junior academy has an amazing full-size gym and my son has loved playing badminton and other sports. Sports are not a main focus but they do gym every day, and there is a focus on being active and social.
My son has 12 kids in his homeroom class. Some of his other classes are smaller - for example, math has approximately 6 kids. The size is enough for him to find great friendships among his classmates. There is a large enough group of kids that they have fun, can mix together and he doesn’t have to rely on just 1 or 2 friends. There is a mix of kids with different strengths and skills- but it usually seems to work quite well. Occasionally my son has had trouble with the variety in developmental levels that can be in a small class. This can make teaching and friendships difficult at times. However it likely also provides benefits to the kids as they learn to accept greater diversity.
(4.5) School Life
Junior Academy is a school where the staff, leadership and teachers meet the child where they are and not at some prescribed level of academics or development. This school has been so helpful and supportive to us. COVID was a particularly difficult time and they did their best to be nimble and adapt to the situation. My son has made so many friends and advanced tremendously his social and regulation skills. We are just getting back to the school trips/extra activities and this will improve school life tremendously. They take the older grades to camp Onondaga every year which is an amazing opportunity. My son loves JA most days and on the days he is not enjoying school I am confident that he is among skilled and caring teachers.
Prior to the COVID pandemic, there were multiple opportunities to meet parents and the broader school community. Interesting speakers and on-topic film screenings. Parent cocktail meet and greet events. Fun Fair and concerts. Volunteer opportunities. House league teams. Fundraising events for the grade 8s and for the school in general. Meet the teachers and staff events. These are now starting again! I look forward to being able to have more social events. Families are very welcome to be involved but as a working mother, I was never made to feel guilty or asked to do too much! I think they struck a reasonable balance to provide opportunity for involvement without any excessive demands. Even during COVID, the teachers and leadership were so responsive and communicative.
(4) School Location
The best part of the location is that they can wander into the ravine for their outdoor education. We travel far for this school but it is worth it. The kids don’t venture off the school property unless involved in school events. There are no lunch areas nearby but they spend lots of time outdoors at lunch and recess.
My son spent 2 1/2 days getting to know the school/ his peers and really felt like part of the decision-making process. He even entered the first year there with a friend he had met during those days. He felt much better knowing his future teacher and the peer group. We spent time with the principal, teacher and felt our questions were all answered. It helped make the transition to the new school less stressful. I would definitely recommend having your child spend a half-day or two before starting. There is nothing I would change about this process and I think it helped make sure we were a good fit for Junior academy. My son was excited to start school after this friendly admissions process.