Here we are in June. This is a time to reflect back on accomplishments and share what we know about next year start up. You will need to make yourself a cup of tea for this one as it is quite lengthy.
First, I want to take some time to thank all of you during these challenging times. The strength of the Tuscany Community was so evident each and every day. Individually, you experienced unexpected change, had to shift your whole design plan into one that incorporated working from home, becoming partners with teachers in guiding and supporting your child’s education, recreational planners to keep children entertained indoors, learning new health and safety protocols, physically disconnecting with a world you were so connected to, and missing friends and family members. This is only scratching the surface of all the things you faced over the past three months. Knowing we were all facing the same situation brought us closer together but, if you were like me, Google Meet, Skype, Zoom and any other platform of visually connecting with others just didn’t cut it. However, we all adapted.
Then the nature of the community emerged. Sharing “Acts of kindness and generosity” emerged and instead of thinking about ourselves, we started to think of others and the impact this pandemic was having on our neighbors, family, friends, teachers and so many more. People reaching out to help, share kind words and appreciation that we were together and here for each other. You may never know the impact you had on the staff of Tuscany School. You need to know it was powerful. Your support, care and attention towards this staff helped lift the spirits of all and suddenly we moved into sharing of stories of the experiences we had. The shared video clips of children provided endless joy, conversations within Google classrooms and D2L were inspiring. The signs and food helped the office staff to feel the nourishing care. Due to the contributions by students, I successfully found a moose and stood in awe as this beautiful animal patiently posed for pictures that I could send to Saa’kokoto in my excitement. He told me the moose represents courage. It is no surprise to have moose reside in such a strong and courageous community as Tuscany.
Our Minister of Education spoke yesterday and shared information about the return to school in the fall. We are all hopeful and confident about the future and look forward to hearing clarifying information from the government on August 1st. Calgary Board of Education task force is working on plans for all three scenarios and will be ready for the announcement in August.
The provincial budget has had a powerful impact as well.
Due to the cuts in PUF funding, Tuscany School will be closing its EDC program. There has been a new model developed to support our youngest learners. EDC will exist at 3 sites, one of which will be a campus setting at Guy Weadick School. Many of our students in the EDC were ready for Kindergarten and registered in their neighborhood schools. The rest are able to access the programs at Guy Weadick or are able to access private programs closer to their homes.
This means we will also be saying farewell to our wonderful EDC staff. Kristal Spencer, teacher; Ana Loyola Rocha, Early Childhood Practitioner; Karin Hauf, Speech Language Assistant, will be leaving Tuscany School as of June 30th. Their extraordinary talents lifting children’s skills, developing rich and rewarding relationships, and creating dynamic learning experiences were embraced and appreciated by all. We loved every minute of our time together with these amazing children and their families and want to wish everyone safe journeys as they make their way forward.
The loss of Class Size Funding has had a substantial impact on our school staff for Kindergarten to Grade 3 students. In the past, we were able to staff at ratio to numbers of students for this age group. With the loss of the Class Size funding the ratio of students per staff have increased. This has resulted in a loss of our teaching staff. In these circumstances, we move to seniority lists and select those with the least seniority on staff. It is with great sadness we need to announce the loss of Kyria Pires (Kindergarten teacher), Rashmi Baldwin and Karen Arcure (grade 3 teachers), and Jada Belin (grade 4 teacher). All of our teachers have been such integral members of the Tuscany family and will be deeply missed. We know their talents will benefit the schools they are moving to, so while we say goodbye to this group at the end of June, they will always be family to us and will remain connected in so many ways.
One of the design models we need to address is the ratio of students to teachers. We have created several scenarios to look at designs that are in the best interest of our students. Collectively, we feel we need to move into multi-aging to allow the ratios to be equitable across the board and not place certain grades with 33-34 students into the design. This means we will be implementing multi-aging scenarios as follows:
Kindergarten – currently have 2 classes – 1 AM serving Rocky Ridge and Royal Oak (and some Tuscany-non bused students chosen from a wait list) and 1 PM class Tuscany residents.
Two classes of grade 1; one class of grade 1/2; one class of grade 2/3; one class of grade 3/4; one class of grade 4/5.
This allows classes to remain reasonable in their sizes; it also allows for any students that choose to enter the program in grade 1. Last year we started with 22 and ended up with 32. In anticipation of the new year we are prepared now for new students entering at this grade.
Kindergarten – currently have 2 classes
We will have 2 classes of grade 1, two classes of grade 2, one class of grade 2/3; two classes of grade 3, one class of grade 3/4; and 2 classes of grade 4. Again, this prevents us from looking at grades with 33 students.
Typically, we would have held a special information session to introduce these changes, take your questions and gather feedback. However, we are living in unique times. Included below is some research for you to access. Multi-aging is not split grades. It is very different and offers tremendous advantages to all children. Eric Harvie School opened its doors implementing multi-aged approaches to teaching and learning. I had expressed my support of this model and now we will be able to introduce it gradually.
Today, classrooms reflect the educational environment as a triangle, the three points represented by the teacher, the student, and the content. Teachers provide opportunities for each child to engage in rich educational tasks that take the child along the processes of skill development within each subject area. Students and teachers are collaborative goal setters in the educational work. Teachers use a variety of assessment tools to monitor and measure academic growth which they use to share with students and
their parents. In a multi-age environment this is the same. Teachers design an activity based on concepts, skills and learning outcomes and look at the student’s stage of skill development. The teacher creates the activity so that it can meet the range of skill complexity so that the students may work at the level they need to master before progressing to the next level.
This means we are not grouping students by their abilities. There will be diversity of learning styles within each class as there has always been at Tuscany School and teachers are prepared to “personalize” their learning environments to meet the needs of all students.
The research on multi aging classrooms is extensive as this model of instructional delivery has been in practice for decades. Much of the material I have listed is dated, however, access to articles through the University and on-line are available as well. I can suggest titles such as:
Short, Kathy, and Carolyn Burke. Creating Curriculum: Teachers and Students as a Community of Learners. Portsmith, NH; Heinemann, 1991
Pigdon, Keith, and Marilyn Woolley, eds. The Big Picture: Integrating Children’s Learning. Armdale, Australia: Eleanor Curtain Publishing, 1992
Ministry of Education, Province of British Columbia. Supporting Learning: Understanding and Assessing the Progress of Children. Victoria, BC, 1991
Kasten, W., and B. Clarke. The Multi-Age Classroom: A Family of Learners. Katonah, NY: Richard Owen, 1993
Gardner, Howard: Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligence. New York: Basic Books, 1985
Barrell, John. Teaching for Thoughtfulness: Classroom Strategies to Enhance Intellectual Development. New York: Longman, 1991
Politano, Colleen and Anne Davies: Multi-Age and More, Building Connections. Winnipeg: Peguis Publishers, 1994
As I say, this is a great deal of information to digest as we work our way through to opening in the all.
I was discussing all of the changes Tuscany School has experienced over the last 6 years. We went from 8 classes of each grade with almost 800 students to the arrival of the Eric Harvie staff. We operated two schools under one roof for four incredible months. Our population went to 465 in a short period of time. We celebrated Arbour Day with all four schools in the Tuscany neighborhood. We lifted our Indigenous Strategy working with Ryan Jason Allen Willert and then with Saa’kokoto. Working with Saa’kokoto we published Blackfoot stories told to us by our Elder and then created an Indigenous Opera, the first of its kind. We brought in our EDC classrooms. With the departures of our EDC it has created space for us to bring in our EES classes.
EES stands for “Enhanced Educational Supports” comprised of students with specific learner profiles. Each of the two classes coming to Tuscany School has a teacher and two Educational Assistants. We are welcoming the staff from the CSSI class at Cambrian Heights School as well as the staff from Brentwood School CSSI class to join us for the fall. We are looking forward to expanding our school profile to include the EES classes.
As we move forward, we will continue to link arms and lean into the challenges we face and celebrate all the “silver linings” that come from learning new things. The staff of Tuscany School is grateful for your ability to work as partners. Together we can accomplish so much!