Goal is to increase awareness of school as an effective option
In recent years John Knox Christian School (JKCS) in Wyoming, Ontario, has taken steps to become more involved in the local community. “I would like to see our school be considered a viable, interesting option for parents,” says principal Ymko Boersma, who began taking the lead in this effort when he joined the school about eight years ago.
“One of the first steps is to make people in the community aware that the school is here, that it’s an effective school, that it does a lot of interesting things, is community-minded and is worth having a good look at.”
The Wyoming school is celebrating 50 years this year and has a current enrollment of about 70 students.
Boersma notes that 12 years ago enrollment was more than double that number but the demographics have shifted, with young families moving away from the rural area and larger families much less common.
The percentage of support in the community has remained fairly constant, he says.
But the change in environment means a change in thinking is required, including the willingness to integrate more into the broader community, according to the principal.
While the going has been slow at times, today JKCS is involved in a wide variety of community activities.
The school’s hand-bell choir performs at the local lighting of the Christmas tree, and students participate in the community’s fall fair parade, as well as take an active part of the Remembrance Day ceremony.
Boersma notes the local town council is very appreciative of these efforts.
“Those things are noticed and commented on quite regularly, which is somewhat of a payoff,” he says. “They just help make the school a little more a part of the landscape here in the central part of the county.”
JKCS students also carry out a number of community clean-up projects and visit local long-term care homes.
The school is connected with public schools in the area through an Academic Challenge activity, which involves students meeting for a trivia competition.
In June, JKCS sponsors a two-pitch baseball tournament, which is appreciated by participating schools and also contributes to keeping the school visible in the community.
The school also has a history fair every other year, which brings people from the community into the school.
“The school has a good reputation in the community,” says Boersma. “But we’ve always kept a fairly low profile. I think (these activities) have just given us more notice.”
The principal adds that the promotions committee has been inspired to increase its activities as it realizes more opportunities to promote the school in a variety of ways.
Boersma would particularly like to see the school communicate more actively with the various churches in the area as well as strengthen its ties with the local separate school.
While the decline in enrollment is a challenge, the principal says school leadership is committed to keeping JKCS as effective and well-grounded as it has always been.