My son, who is now in Grade 6 has attended John Knox since JK. He is a smart child and has benefited from extra time with the special education teacher for extra learning challenges. Our daughter, who is now in Grade 3, loves the special fun days and activities planned by the student council. I love the community of the school. The students are placed into a family of students and this family comes together for various activities, such as track and field day. This gives great leadership opportunities for the older students and some older role models for the younger children. As adults, we have also made many friends within this community. The school also has a nice balance between teaching the basics (there is a strong emphasis on reading) and using technology (my kids love the Chrome books). We have also been impressed with the care, commitment, and skills of the teaching staff. A few of the 'bonuses' are swimming lessons, and an excellent music program. We also appreciate the afterschool program and piano lessons, which both have a small fee. One disappointing thing is that the kids have friends all over the city so it is harder to see them regularly.
We have a new principal, so I am interested to see if there is any change in this, although the leadership is always very willing to listen to concerns. They have tried to be proactive regarding bullying and have brought in a few different groups to work through anti-bullying programs with the students. Communication is good and we received a weekly newsletter from the school. We also attend the board meetings, so feel we have a good grasp of what is going on.
The teachers at John Knox are excellent. They are passionate and caring and are willing to take the time to communicate with parents, and work with the students. It is good that the school also provides a special education program for those students who need additional support or challenge. Some of this happens within the classroom, but even more happens in the special education classroom. They have embraced project based learning, but continue to find time for more traditional learning as well. We receive regular feedback and always receive quick responses to any concerns we have presented. The French teacher is amazing and I am constantly amazed by how much French language my children have learned. As well, the music teacher, that is relatively new, has improved the quality of the band in a short period of time. He has also added additional music programming to the Grade 4 class, which is excellent.
I would describe the academic culture as, I can. John Knox takes the time to help each student reach their potential. I believe that their academics are stronger than the public school system and it is one of the reasons we have remained at John Knox. I think my children will be better prepared for their next steps in life as they will have both the classroom academics, but also have been involved in other leadership opportunities. The project based learning model has taught my children presentation skills, teamwork, research skills, project management, and presentation skills. John Knox is excellent at teaching children to read! The have a strong reading program that makes reading fun, but also challenges the student improve their reading. Both my children absolutely love to read thanks to John Knox!
If you are looking for great sport teams, John Knox has them. They win many competitions. The only challenge of this is those that love sports, but might not excel in them, may not make very many teams. I do love that the children are allowed to, and encouraged to, play sports (including ball hockey) at recess. This year, the school introduced 'recess' activities in the winter, which were a huge hit. Children could sign up for activities such as performance, crafts, Lego, origami, and computer programming. They have also brought in outside leadership for a Robotics, Babysitting, and dance course (for a small fee). Another important part of the school is that often the children are working to make the world a better place. For example, they bake for local mission, raise money for animals, and have a sponsored child.
As I previously mentioned, a great part of John Knox is that each student is placed in a family group. This allows the students to feel like they really belong, and provides leadership opportunities for the older students. They also have older students come and read with the younger students, which is a highlight for both groups. The student council tries hard to create fun activities for the student as well. The school is very diverse. I love the multi-cultural nature of the school. I also think there is a willingness by other students to include students that have special needs.
My daughter loves school! She loves her teacher. She loves learning. She loves her friends. My son doesn't love school. He does loves seeing his friends and loves gym class and recess, but like many 12-year-olds, school is 'boring'. He has enjoyed the project-based learning this year and has been able to develop some videography skills as part of his learning this year. He does find the regular class time boring, but we keep telling him that he needs to complete that before he can move onto more interesting work. (As an adult, we sometimes need to do the boring before moving forward too.) I know that the school will allow him to do more interesting things once he completes the required work/curriculum if we just ask.
John Knox encourages parents to be involved in the school. Volunteer hours are a requirement of the school, and those who do not complete 20 hours of volunteer work each year, have an additional fee. Parents are also involved in the administration of the school and have the ability to serve on various committees. There are also regular board meetings that parents are encouraged to attend. Parents are also actively involved in fundraising activities for the school. Volunteers are also used within the classroom, helping in the library, leading clubs, and on class trips. They even provide administration opportunities for those who need a volunteer role that they complete at home, which is great for busy families. We have made many friends through our involvement at John Knox.
I would suggest that the school is a bit of an island. They do participate in the Terry Fox Walk and walk through the neighbourhood for this. I believe in the past, they had a relationship with the Bridge Prison Ministry Program at the Ontario Correctional Institute across the street from the school. They are beginning to get involved with this again by having the children make bookmarks for this program.