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New school blends Christian worldview with high academics

Written on July 11th, 2007

A new school in the Mississauga area has the distinction of seeking to blend the Christian worldview with a high academic standard, according to principal and owner Aaron Sawatsky.

St. Jude’s Academy opened its doors to Grade 5 to 8 students last September.

“We’re kind of an anomaly within the organization,” says Sawatsky, referring to the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS).

For starters, the academy is incorporated, as opposed to society-owned and board-run.

In addition, the school’s mandate includes a high academic standard.

“We’re a Christian school but we’re definitely an academic school first,” says Sawatsky.

Mississauga has 33 private schools as well as a few Christian schools but none that combine the Christian worldview with the high academics of typical private schools.

“We’re sort of trying to marry the two,” says Sawatsky.

St. Judie’s is in candidacy to become an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School, which means it will be authorized to offer IB programs. It will be the only Alliance school with this distinction.

IB offers “high-quality education that encourages international-mindedness and a positive attitude to learning,” according to its Web site, www.ibo.org.

At present the school uses a mix of curriculum, including some IB, some OACS programs as well as Ontario Ministry of Education material.

To help maintain the high academics, the school has a mandate to keep classroom ratios low, one teacher to no more than 15 students. This ensures students receive quality, individualized attention, according to Sawatsky.

Students are also expected to do their part and complete about two hours of homework a night. Sawatsky describes the program as “rigorous.”

He notes the school is geared for students that are motivated to study and admits it isn’t for everyone.

“We’re a bit of a niche market that way,” he says. “We’re looking for students that more than enjoy school.”

To date, the school is doing well in terms of its academic objectives. Last year the school’s 23 students averaged in the 92nd percentile of the Canadian Achievement Test.

The Christian worldview is maintained with the use of some OACS curriculum, as mentioned, as well as employing Christian teachers.

Sawatsky says the five-year plan is to grow the population to about 120 to 150 students.

Next year the school will offer pre-kindergarten to Grade 8.

For more information, see www.stjudesacademy.com.