Jessie Kuipers was nervous about the transition from homeschooling to school for her two daughters, but has found an inclusive and welcoming environment at Trenton Christian School (TCS).
Her two oldest children enrolled at the school in September, 2010, Cecilia in Grade 2 and Grace in senior kindergarten.
“The school has definitely done a wonderful job with both the girls,” says Kuipers.
The family has travelled with Grace, who has Down syndrome, to the United States for resources to support her speech and development. Kuipers says it was hard to pass her learning onto someone else, but says the school has done a “fantastic job.”
“TCS has really jumped on board to be an all-inclusive school and to see the benefits rather than the challenges of including children with disabilities.
“(They looked at it as) this will bring educational learning to some of the other kids and it allows the kids to jump into a more accepting role of including children who face different daily obstacles than themselves,” she says.
The school worked hard to get programs and supports in place for Grace, such as bringing in a personal support worker in for transitional times of the day.
Kuipers was also nervous for Cecilia and how she would transition from homeschooling to school life.
She says it has been “a breeze,” and the teacher initially did some helpful cues throughout the day to help her adjust.
“She now has a great group of friends,” she says, adding it was assuring to know Cecilia was settled, feeling included and not missing home too much.
The school is fostering an inclusive environment, implementing activities in the classroom so everyone feels included. For celebrations there are no snacks with wheat brought in by the school, as Grace has a wheat-free diet.
“It will become easier but kids tend to shy away from things that are different and the teachers say we are going to deal with this head-on and be inclusive from the get-go in kindergarten,” she says.
Students from older classes sit with Grace on her bus ride to and from school.
Grace looks forward to going to school. She’s always excited to see her new friends, her teacher and her support worker.
“They were just really on board to make sure that it happened and that everybody is included and nobody feels left out.”