Marymound School is unique. The School offers alternative programming for children who have experienced early childhood trauma, as well as specialized learning for children with behavioural or learning disabilities.
Marymound’s students attend the school from a variety of places. Children may come from within Marymound’s managed care programs, or from any school division in Winnipeg or the surrounding area.
“We presently have 28 managed care children and 32 more from various school divisions,” says Marymound School Principal Mark Miles. ”Students from the school divisions are with us primarily due to behavioural issues and stay with us up to four to five years, while the kids’ attendance from our managed care programs is more irregular dependent on their placement in Marymound.”
What makes Marymound School exceptional is how they ensure their students attend school as regularly as possible. All kids from the various school divisions get rides to and from school by the Marymound School staff.
The school transportation process evolved in 2007, from a previously cumbersome and costly arrangement that included a Winnipeg School Division Bus dropping off some students at Marymound while others from a daycare in Seven Oaks School Division would take a Handi-Transit bus. Principal Miles developed an agreement with Seven Oaks School Division that includes Marymound’s school staff being willing to pick up children from the daycare. This situation continued to evolve, and over the last eight years Marymound has picked up every child and returned them home after school.
Each school day, 19 Marymound School staff pick up and return up to 33 kids from various sectors within and outside the city. “We utilize our teachers who live in the nearest sector where the kids live to help reduce travel time. Outside the city, we go as far as Beausejour, La Broquerie, La Salle, Stony Mountain and Oakbank to ensure the kids get to school,” says Mathew Miles, Educational Assistant.
It’s strictly a volunteer initiative, but the dedicated teachers see it as major benefit by driving the students every day with the time spent building relationships with the kids. School staff call it ‘car therapy’ as they end up knowing far more about what’s going on in their students’ lives than at a public school. “Because of the nature of the scattered pickups, some senior class teachers that wouldn’t otherwise spend much time with the younger kids also gain another opportunity to build a relationship,” says Principal Miles. “This time in the car together also calms the children down and gets them in a better mindset for class.”
Marymound’s teachers are in constant two-way communication with students’ parents through texts or emails to exchange information on a child’s behaviour before, during, and after class. To appease their comfort level, on occasion a parent will want to discuss their child’s initial transition in person at drop off or pickup.
Most students attending Marymound School are from grades 5 to 9 with very few issues occurring during the drive to and from. On rare occasions, high school students may have a bad day and want to be left alone, so to avoid confrontation, their parents provide prior consent to supply them a bus ticket to get home.
The ultimate goal of Marymound School is to reintegrate children back into public school. The students return when they are ready and if they do so before starting high school, they have a good chance of graduating. The older students usually are prepared for adult education or other accessible learning programs.