Longer school day

September 20, 2017
Full school day is a first for the RMHC Toronto School.
Students watching teacher read a storybook

The Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) Toronto School just began its 14th school year, but this year looks a little different. For the first time in the School’s history, it is providing a full school day for students in Junior Kindergarten to Grade 8. Students will start at 9 a.m. and finish at 3 p.m., with an optional lunch program.

“This is a really exciting change for us,” says Katie Doering, Principal and teacher. “Caregivers had been telling us that our old structure of splitting the day into two age groups made for too many pickup times. Now that we’ve hired a third teacher, we have the resources to have all elementary grades attend for the full day.”

This extra time opens up a wealth of new opportunities for students. Teachers can cover more subjects – including additions like French and Health – and will have more time to cover core subjects like Math and Language. Students will also have more outdoor time, with a third recess now worked into the day.

“We will also use the additional time to focus on our students’ social development and wellbeing,” says Katie. “For example, one day a week we will provide time for personal reflection, and we’re studying monthly character values, like patience and respect.”

The schedule for high school students has changed this year as well. Rather than coming for two separate teaching blocks, they will spend one two-hour period with a qualified high school teacher every afternoon.

Teenage girl doing school work with teacher

“We’ve determined that from 2 to 4 p.m. is the best time for the older students to learn,” says Katie. “Most of them are patients with low energy levels and demanding appointment schedules, so one uninterrupted block works well for them.”

Interestingly, Katie and her team have observed the opposite for younger patients.

“Historically we’ve felt that patients couldn’t manage a longer school day, but, depending on their diagnosis and treatment schedule, we’re realizing that many of them can. We’re also receiving referrals from the hospital saying that patients should return to school as soon as possible. The return to normalcy is extremely important for their recovery and holistic development.”

Two weeks into the school year, the new schedule is going well. An average of 20 students have been attending each day, and parents seem pleased with the change. But there’s one question they’ve been asking Katie quite regularly.

“’How much does this cost?’ Parents can’t believe that we provide this amazing school experience at no cost to them. Donors should know what a huge relief that is for families.”

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