Growing school = more teachers!

Dear da Vinci Parents/Guardians,

I am writing you to share good news about da Vinci staffing. I have finally received confirmation from the Board and am able to share it with you. I know there has been a lot of uncertainty in the past couple of weeks as we work through the Board staffing process. We appreciate your patience.

As you know, schools are allocated teachers for the upcoming school year based on projected enrolment. In September, the Board makes adjustments, based on actual enrolment, to meet Ministry, Board and Collective Agreement directives, such as the primary class size cap.

When we started school this year, da Vinci classes were larger than they have ever been. In particular, our Grade 1 /2 class is well over the allowed class size with 27 students and parents have rightfully expressed their concerns about crowding.

I was informed yesterday that we have therefore been allocated an additional full teaching position for da Vinci. This additional teacher must be used at the primary level to reduce the class size to no more than 20.

We have created a straight Grade One of 17 children and a new Grade Two of 10 children. I am able to hire a teacher for the new class. There will be no changes to any other classes.

This change presents both opportunities and challenges. We have an opportunity to provide more personal support and contact to your children, to meet their developmental needs. We have room to grow at the primary level and we are getting in touch with parents on the wait list for these grades.

Our present faculty and our Waldorf mentor will be working closely with the new teacher, to continue the excellent teaching and learning that has been started in our Grade 1 /2 class.  Jovanka will work closely with the new teacher, once hired.

One of our challenges is space. Due to the growth of both Lord Lansdowne and da Vinci, there are no empty classrooms anywhere in the school, except for the former Cantonese classroom, 310, in the centre of the building.  The new class will be assigned to Room 310.

We consulted with staff and the School Council about the change, as part of our staffing process. Teachers are thrilled with the extra support for our children. Some parents identified a preference for a Grade 4/5/6, however, the Board does not allow a triple grade.

A number of parents were concerned about the new space, since it is in the interior of the building and does not have windows. The teachers are working on a plan to create a cozy, welcoming environment in Room 310. We all remember the magic parents used to transform the da Vinci office at Winter Fair. We believe the same magic can happen in 310 with warm lighting, art, plants, paint and fabric. Teachers will be sending out a request list for materials and support, next week. If you are interested in helping out, please let Jovanka know.

This will be a special new space with a different feel, a ‘cozy corner’ instead of a ‘treehouse’ feel. We expect the new Grade 2 class to spend their mornings in their new classroom, for their main lesson block time. We expect that for part of the afternoons, the new space will be used by other classes for shared activities like a singing space, or a story place. As you know, we are able to combine some classes in the afternoon for Health and Physical Education, singing, handwork, etc.

Timeline:

  1. The transition will take approximately a week. It will take some time to get the furniture in Room 310 moved out, to get the room set up attractively, and to follow the TDSB job posting process.
  2. I have an occasional teacher, Jolan Canrinus, who knows the children and the school, working with the Grade 1/ 2 class in conjunction with Jovanka Wong. He will be with the class until the transition is completed.
  3. Once the hiring process is completed, we will move the children and teacher together into the new space. We hope to create a little ceremony to honour the change. We will let you know as soon as possible who the teacher will be and when the change will happen.
  4. The teachers and I will speak to the children, to explain what is happening.

We recognize that change is sometimes hard. We are committed to effecting this change as smoothly as possible and with great sensitivity to the students, parents and staff involved. The process has been very intense and timelines have been delayed within the Board. Living with uncertainty has been a challenge for us all, but remember – the news is good news. Some schools have lost teachers.

There will be an adjustment period for everyone, but children are surprisingly resilient. These arrangements are advantageous to learning and growing for all of our students.  I know many of you have been spreading the word about the wonderful things going on here for children. Our efforts to build da Vinci are definitely paying off!  Thank you for your support and patience.

Beth Mills                          Robin Holmes-Smith
Principal                            Vice-Principal