Stuff Your Ottawa School Offers That You Didn’t Know About

We have a couple of friends who are teachers, and a friend who is a school office assistant, and one friend who was a teacher, then a guidance counsellor, then a VP.

If we didn’t have contacts like this, we would have missed out on several opportunities our school offers that we just didn’t know about. So I’m posting them here in case your family is in the same boat and these can be of use to you. Note that we are part of the Ottawa-Carleton Public School Board so this is specific to them.

First: Grade 8 pre-high school helper class. Our middle kid, Gal Smiley, did just fine in primary school except in one subject, English, where she was barely scraping by and her teachers gave her what I call the “token pass.” We were really worried about what would happen when she got to high school; we feared that her struggles with English might limit her future prospects or worse, make her hate high school so much she might want to drop out.

We found out that the board offers a summer school course for Grade 8 kids who are struggling in Math or English. It’s a “get ready for high school” class that goes over the basics, but also teaches you how to approach things like a word problem or an essay in a logical way. The board used to offer two separate classes, one for Math and one for English; the year Gal Smiley went, which was three years ago, they merged them into one class but Gal Smiley only went to the afternoon portion which was the English half.

We had to ask about this class after finding out from our friends that it existed; you need a teacher recommendation to get in so we had to chase that down ourselves.

Was it worth it? I think so, yes. Gal Smiley was pretty mad we made her take it and ruin her summer. But she did great in the class – it was the first time she ever really “got it” and also the first time she ever thought she could be good at English. A friend of hers was in the math-only half and also felt it was worthwhile.

Second: Mixed level Grade 9 English. I hear that Ontario is taking away streaming for all Grade 9 classes next year, which perhaps makes this one moot. But again, we found out from our friends that most high schools offer a mixed level Grade 9 English class which was perfect for Gal Smiley. Kids in the class are given the same assignments but marked at their own level, and at the end of the glass are awarded the credit the teacher felt that they earned. This was another huge confidence booster for Gal Smiley and she ended up doing just fine in English then and since, at the advanced level. Yay!

While we’re on the subject of Grade 9 – my kids didn’t take this, but did you know that if your kid is struggling, there is a Grade 9 class that teaches you how to study? You can take it in place of another elective (often gym or art) to help you figure out high school. Question from me: why doesn’t EVERY kid have to take this? In any case – if your kid could use this, ask about it!

Third: Online classes for kids in regular school, known as the Prism Consortium. Back when the Captain was in Grade 10, he knew he wanted to take a whole lot of Grade 11 classes, as so many cool electives were offered. So he decided to take Grade 11 English at summer school to clear a spot in his schedule. His school told him he’d have to register for English anyway, and once he passed summer school and provided proof of that pass, he’d be able to drop it for the elective he wanted in that slot, Data Managment.

Well. He finished summer school at the end of July, and the school was closed all of August. So in September we went in to make the arrangements to drop English and take Data Management instead, only to be told that taking DM was not going to be possible. SADNESS.

He ended up taking Accounting instead, a class he disliked and didn’t need and didn’t interest him at all.

Cut to a year later and Gal Smiley is in exactly the same spot. She was told last week she couldn’t fit a class into her schedule (interestingly: also Data Management) and so was offered Physics instead, something she really did not want to take, but she resigned herself to it.

While complaining to my friends about this, I found out that there was no need for this to have happened in the first place! Any kid in high school can choose to take one online class at any time if it doesn’t fit into your schedule.

I couldn’t believe it – surely they would have offered the Captain this option when it happened before? But it’s true, and no, nobody offered it to us last time.

You have to register for the Consortium classes through your guidance counsellor, so I asked about it for Gal Smiley, and they were all, no problem! and just signed her up, and dropped physics. Now she can do the online class at any time during the second half of the year at her own pace, so she’ll be doing it in the time she has available from dropping the one class.

And to that I say, WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL US ABOUT THIS IN THE FIRST PLACE. Seriously. I am not a school guidance counsellor and I don’t have deep knowledge of all the stuff our school board offers. There’s no way I would have known about this if I didn’t have friends in high places. I’ve been to every single parent interview day, I’ve been to every parent information night at the high school, I’ve been to every course selection event. Still I did not know about this.

But now you do! Hope it helps.

3 thoughts on “Stuff Your Ottawa School Offers That You Didn’t Know About

  1. bibliomama2

    I try to give people running schools all the grace I can, but shit like this, coupled with the lousy treatment we’ve gotten from guidance with BOTH my kids, really pisses me off. You are a queen to share it, but the question remains – WHY is stuff like this not front-and-center somewhere? Even if they can’t be arsed to TELL people about it, SCHOOLS HAVE WEBSITES NOW. GAHHHHHHHHH

  2. I’m taking note, although I suspect it may change in a few years when Mark may need it. That said, the takeaway is that there are “perks” available if you know about them.

    I’m still struggling navigating the school system here. I don’t know if our school (same board as you) is particularly bad at communicating or if it’s just a culture shock for me, but most of the time, I have NO IDEA what they are doing or talking about.

  3. Yes, I totally agree you have to know what to ask for, and it can be great to know about these options, HOWEVER, I recommend being very careful with the online classes. We had an absolutely terrible experience with an online class and it was partly the “start when you want, finish when you want, do it when you want,” non-schedule, and partly the lack of any kind of teacher, and partly the fact that the technology was wonky and kicked our kid out of the class a week or so before he was supposed to be able to finish it. Also, I have a serious problem with schools bailing on offering fundamental, pre-requisite courses to their students and offering the online option as a get-out-of-jail free card. Our school said they couldn’t fit our child into a prerequisite Chemistry course, and the same thing happened to a friend with a Physics course. I believe every student should have a right to take basic, core, pre-req university courses at their home school and I’m afraid offering online courses instead will turn into an easy way out. Now, rant over 🙂

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