Our son started at GAA midway through the year, and the teachers/staff/students all made him feel so welcome, making the transition far easier than I could have imagined. He had adjusted so well to the school environment and has really bonded with his teacher, even through this difficult time of social distancing. Mrs. Blanken does a wonderful job engaging her students through e-learning. The classes seem to be formed based on suitability, ensuring that the class as a whole can grow. The JK classroom seems to be learning together, allowing the teacher to focus on every student, rather than just one, who might be struggling. On a more trivial note, our son loves that the JK's are able to join in the extracurricular sport programs, and he also loves the catered lunch options.
We started at GAA midway through the year, and the administration had such close contact with our son and with us, keeping us all comfortable throughout a huge transition. They have such a positive presence, right from the very first time you walk through the door, and they know each child and their parents by name, which creates a very personal approach. We have not had any experiences with discipline as our son is only in JK. That being said, at our previous school, the class size was so large, with a couple of children who required extra attention, and the go-to was to send them to the principals office. The school leadership at GAA seems to be one of a caring nature, and the JK's are guided so that they aren't ostracized by sending them to the office.
Mrs. Blanken, the JK teacher, provides her students will challenging work, that exceeds the JK curriculum in public schools. Each child is so engaged in learning and is given the opportunity to express their individuality. Not only do they learn a lot, but they all seem so comfortable with each other. A very supportive learning environment. My son also really enjoys his music, french and gym classes. It's fantastic that at this young age, they are provided with teachers who specialize in an individual area. So often, JK's are taught all subjects by their homeroom teacher, and while that teacher might be a great teacher, they don't always hold the knowledge required for specialized subjects. The teachers that we have had this year are all stellar at what they do.
I like that the JK's are engaged in all areas of academics, including french, music, gym, and computer use. While their age is being taken into account, their intelligence is not undermined, and they are being given a great academic foundation, which will help as they advance. With the pandemic this year, Mrs Blanken and Mrs Laidman have both had a significant online presence for the students, which helps them maintain some sort of academic fluidity, in this difficult times. Mrs Blanken gives a good array of academic activities, but has also hosted dance parties, costume parties, and virtual field trips, all of which the kids seem to love. She also has one to one meetings with each child, to ensure that they're not being left behind.
There are many extracurricular options offered to students of all ages. My son, in JK, was most excited to be a part of the school running team, which disappointingly could not happen because of Covid-19. He will eagerly await the next season! There are also several non-sport extracurricular activities for all ages. The after school program is also well developed.
I write for my son: My teachers are really nice and make me feel good. I really love going into the big gym and doing gym class with the other kids. I also like the house team sports when I get to join a team with older kids and play different sports. The big kids help the little kids and my team won. All of the kids treat me like I'm their friend and they are all so funny. They don't yell in class and they all listen to the teacher. The pizza lunches are my favorite, and I also like that my mom can order me milk every day. I get chocolate milk sometimes. The principal isn't scary at all. She is actually really nice.
As far as we can tell, this is a school that really values the mental health of each child that attends. It's such a nurturing environment, which promotes positive learning, and physical and mental development. The class size is unparalleled, in that there are 5 children in the JK class this year. The individual attention they receive really sets a child up for success. I really like the idea of having multiple uniform options, which teaches my son how to dress up occasionally, and he feels so proud of himself, wearing a suit jacket and a tie, once a week. Another fantastic feature for the JK's is that they get their own locker. This is something that my 5-year-old finds especially cool. He gets to feel like a big kid, and it also teaches him independence and organization.
I have found the parents to be very friendly, and lacking some of the pretentious attitudes that can be attached to other private schools. I actually appreciate the fact that parents are involved, without taking over the school and interfering with how it is run. Having attended private schools throughout my education, the community of parents here is really special. My son joined midway through the year, and the parents that we met, even when my son was touring, were all so welcoming. They were able to provide me with informed feedback before we were forced to make the difficult decision to leave another school, which really helped ease our minds. They were also very friendly to my son, also lessening the stress of the transition.
I wasn't initially thrilled with the location of the school, but really find the size of the playground and school properties, to make up for the location. There is so much space for all of the kids to play, and it is amazing that the JK's are not limited to only a small enclosed area. The teacher monitoring is great, and the kids really enjoy their time outside.