Guelph Community Christian School (GCCS) is growing its student population, with 226 students enroled this fall, an increase from 160 students in June 2010.
Families are fostering word-of-mouth and making a difference, says principal Bob Moore.
“We are finding it catching on in the sense that as people are talking to their friends or acquaintances about schools and school choice, they feel comfortable now saying why don’t you look at our school or go talk to GCCS,” he says.
Infrastructure built through a recruitment and retention committee continues to be a success, says Moore.
Formed a couple years ago, the small group of parents monitor the temperature of the school families and report back to Moore. Items that require systemic change are forwarded to another committee and make its way up to the board level.
Moore says another contributor is being active in differentiated instruction. He notes the temporary closing of another local Christian school saw some families switch to GCCS and decide to stay, likely due to the flexible environment.
When it comes to attracting students from other Christian schools, Moore says it isn’t about whether the school is thriving but that parents want Christian education that’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.
The school works to serve children with different learning styles and strengths and parents respond to that, says Moore.
“It says to (parents) we are going to teach your child as an individual, we are going to respect your child’s strengths and weaknesses, and that translates into we care about your child,” says Moore.
There are children in a variety of educational plan arrangements at the school, with educational supports in the classroom.
GCCS offers the Arrowsmith Program, which helps children who have learning disabilities based on the principle of neuroplasticity — that the brain can change and develop new functions and roles — strengthening weak cognitive capacities through specific exercises.
Moore says as the school grows, a concern parents have expressed is to not lose its community. The answer isn’t to stop growing, he says, but to put structures in place so community is built intentionally and becomes systemic.
“It’s not about size, it’s about structures and systems and good intentions that are turned into good structure,” he says.
As more families enrol at GCCS, some are not familiar with Christian education.
“In our Christian schools for years and years and years we could assume that parents would give you the benefit of the doubt because you went to church with those parents,” he says.
There are now more than 35 churches represented at the school, and some families do not attend a church.
“We can’t assume that they will assume these good things are happening,” says Moore.
“It’s not enough to be doing good, you have to know how to identify it and label it and express it for parents,” he says.
GCCS purchased a larger school and property, and is involved in a fundraising campaign with the hope to move in September 2012. Learn more about the school at this link.