Catholic Education

MARKHAM, ONT. - A York Region school will soon have more reason to sing and dance as construction on a new arts building nears completion.  

St. Michael Catholic Academy in Markham, Ont., should be ready for a September opening. St. Michael’s is the only elementary school in York Region with a special focus on the arts: instrumental music, dance, drama and visual arts. Students in Grades 4 to 8 get special instruction on these subjects every day, in addition to the regular academic classes. When students return in September, they will be returning to a building with specialized facilities. Currently they are in a typical school building, without the facilities to cater to an advanced arts program.

The evolution of student leadership

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TORONTO - Over the last two decades, student leadership has evolved and taken on new life, according to Greg Rogers.

“Twenty years ago, schools were just beginning to realize the power of student leadership,” said Rogers, co-ordinator of student leadership with the Toronto Catholic District School Board.

Rogers has been on the frontline of this growth since the early 1990s, when as acting vice principal at Toronto’s Brebeuf College School, he asked to take the incoming Grade 9 class on a camp retreat to Olympia Sports Camp in Huntsville, Ont.

TCDSB looks to future with multi-year plan

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Looking to restore public confidence in school trustees, the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) board has passed a multi-year plan that emphasizes trustee governance, mentoring and transparency.

“We are reducing the areas of ambiguity and providing more clarity,” said Ann Andrachuk, second-term chair of the board. “That will restore and improve public confience, not only for us but for Catholic education around the province. We’ve always been looked at as being leaders in Catholic education in the province and we’re heading in that direction again.”

St. Jude’s anti-drug murals to be showcased on TTC

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On April 20 as thousands across North America protested anti-drug laws by smoking pot, Grade 8 students at St. Jude Catholic School picked up paintbrushes to promote a different drug message — say no.

“It’s sheer coincidence but, to a certain extent, what better day to work on a project like this than a day a large part of society is raising that level of acceptance,” said Nick Biagini, St. Jude’s principal. “It helps them to become aware of the dangers of drugs, even drugs that they feel are light. They can become gateways for other more addictive drugs.”

Mysterious ailment fells eight at St. Thomas More School

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TORONTO - Spring cleaning became a high priority at St. Thomas More Catholic School on April 26 after at least six students and two teachers began feeling flu-like symptoms.

The rapid onset of the symptoms, which included fevers, lethargy and severe abdominal pains, raised enough concern that emergency crews were called to the school in Toronto's northeast end. Most who displayed signs of illness were assessed and released on site by Emergency Medical Services, who arrived around 2 p.m., with the exception of one student who was transported to hospital.

Toronto students to begin their day singing ‘O Canada’

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TORONTO - Students in Toronto Catholic schools will now begin their school day by singing our national anthem each morning.

On April 19, the Toronto Catholic District School Board voted 7-3 to have students sing “O Canada” a cappella during opening exercises.

To lead by example, trustee Angela Kennedy, who spearheaded the vote, uploaded a video of herself on YouTube singing “O Canada” without any background music.

Students get up close, personal at Vimy Ridge

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Twenty-five students from Barrie, Ont.’s St. Joseph’s Catholic High School experienced an Easter to remember as they travelled to France on a Remembering Vimy Ridge trip.

Accompanied by history teacher Trevor Carter, the students experienced a seven-day history class.

“The students did realize the sacrifice of the soldiers when they were sacrificing their comfort,” said Carter, describing the Easter Monday weather as typical for Normandy, France — wet, windy and cold. “But it was easy to handle the weather when you took into account what happened there 95 years ago.”

Mother goose a teaching aid in north Toronto school

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TORONTO - Education is going to the birds at Hawthorn School for Girls, with Grade 3 teacher Magdolna Hamza taking advantage of a nesting goose named Lola directly outside the window of her second floor classroom as a teaching aid.

On April 2 Hamza first noticed her new neighbours nestled in the rooftop gravel of the independent Catholic school for girls in north Toronto.

“I was doing my chores and opened the window and oh, there’s an egg,” said Hamza. “I was surprised there was no nest, just an egg.”

St. Robert’s takes robotics title

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THORNHILL, ONT. - In their FIRST Robotics Competition debut, the St. Robert’s RetroRams mechanically orchestrated a regional championship while earning the rookie all-star award at the annual competition.  

FIRST Robotics hosts high school regional championships  and invites winners, and select teams, to the world championships, to be held this year in St. Louis.

At the Toronto West Regional competition on the last weekend of March, 52 teams packed the Hershey Centre in Mississauga for a Rebound Rumble showdown where three-team alliances hit the hardwood.

Loretto Abbey ties one on for Sudan school

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TORONTO - Although Loretto Abbey’s 4th Annual Charity Cup Hockey Game ended in a 5-5 tie, there was a winner at the end — the girls in Sudan who will benefit from the $4,860 raised at the event.

“We’re going to give it to the Loretto Sisters who are trying to build a school, a high school, for girls in South Sudan,” said Loretto Abbey principal Alda Bassani. “This year all our efforts for charity are going to that cause.”

About 450 tickets were purchased for the April 4 hockey game at North Toronto Arena which pitted the school team against a staff squad. At $10 apiece, ticket sales raised the bulk of the money. Additional funds came from t-shirt sales, a Chuck-the-Puck contest and the sale of raffle tickets.

Ontario trustees not pleased with provincial budget

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Cuts, freezes and protections for education introduced in the 2012 Ontario provincial budget are not sitting well with some of the province’s partners in education.

While the province has chosen to protect small class sizes, full-day kindergarten and almost 20,000 teaching and support staff jobs in its austerity budget presented March 27, the government is also calling for the closure of under-utilized schools and potential board amalgamations to maximize resources.

Nancy Kirby, Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association president, acknowledges the importance of early childhood education, but said going “ahead with full-day kindergarten on the same timeline ... is an expensive decision.”