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I am a Swansea Student

Photo of Swansea students in classThree learning tracks at Swansea Jr and Sr Public School had the unintended consequence of “silos” within the building. But a focus on building community and integrating students and staff has had a big impact on student engagement.

“We saw the inequities and the divisions three tracks of English, Extended French and Late Extended French were causing in our community,” recalls Principal Mary Salvarinas, “and we felt there was an opportunity – and a need – to find a way to bring students and staff together.”

Students from Kindergarten to Grade 3 were a pretty unified group, but in Grade 4 the various tracks led to students rarely crossing paths. It also exposed extreme realties about student demographics within those tracks and the rivalry and strong divisions between them, said Salvarinas.

Salvarinas, together with Vice Principals Natalie Patterson and Cherril George initiated an “I am a Swansea student” way of thinking, instead of students identifying as French or English students. The first wave was to integrate the three tracks of Grade 7s and 8s into a single stream for half of the school day. It allowed students to all take common subjects in English, including science and math, and this was the first time they’d taken them together.

It was important that the structures supported the type of inclusive environment that Swansea was trying to create.

“It was a logistical challenge to coordinate the schedules,” Salvarinas said, “but the impact has already been felt in a significant way.”

Bringing students together helped create a more diverse peer group of students who could help support each other. Teachers are continuing to collaborate even more and finding new ways to ensure that all students have what they need to be successful.

“This shift was necessary to work towards the creation of a whole school community and better support our students’ well-being and success,” she said. “The idea is to continue with this model because it’s working so well.”

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