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Ontario Tech acknowledges the lands and people of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation.

We are thankful to be welcome on these lands in friendship. The lands we are situated on are covered by the Williams Treaties and are the traditional territory of the Mississaugas, a branch of the greater Anishinaabeg Nation, including Algonquin, Ojibway, Odawa and Pottawatomi. These lands remain home to many Indigenous nations and peoples.

We acknowledge this land out of respect for the Indigenous nations who have cared for Turtle Island, also called North America, from before the arrival of settler peoples until this day. Most importantly, we acknowledge that the history of these lands has been tainted by poor treatment and a lack of friendship with the First Nations who call them home.

This history is something we are all affected by because we are all treaty people in Canada. We all have a shared history to reflect on, and each of us is affected by this history in different ways. Our past defines our present, but if we move forward as friends and allies, then it does not have to define our future.

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Why Alternative schools are important

July 12, 2021

Alternative schools are schools that follow different methods of education and curriculum from what local school boards have in place. The whole point of alternative schools is to provide a system for students who struggle in traditional learning environments, a place to excel. In this post I will be talking about my experience as an alternative high school student and why I think they are very important.

How my school functioned

I went to Delphi Secondary Alternative School, which was for grades 9 through 12 and had a student population of just over 100. It was designed to be a small community for students and help them realize their full potential. By giving students more independence and space to learn, my school helped students develop better study habits as well as providing a space for us to grow. We had a small group of teachers and staff that we all referred to on a first-name basis. The relationships we had with them were very meaningful and most of all helpful in building relationships. My teachers there were willing to help me with anything I needed and were always there to listen to what I had to say. The teachers challenged our abilities but also helped mould them along the way. My schedules would become more similar to a University schedule each year, as I would sometimes have just 1-2 classes a day on average which gave me the opportunity to learn how to time manage and also spend time with my peers from varying grades. We had a breakfast program, a student council, and many clubs that were student-driven. 

Benefits of Alternative schools

Not all alternative schools are the same, as the whole point of them is that they are unique to the students and can cater to students with different needs. This is a benefit in itself because I think the idea of a true educational style is ridiculous, many people have different learning styles and I’ve lost count of the many people I've met in university who had bad high school experiences and I’ve thought, “wow they could have really benefited from going to an alternative school”. Another benefit that I personally found was how much my experience at school really prepared me for post-secondary education. My schedule was very similar to the one I have in university now, I knew straight away how to manage my time, how to talk to my professors, and actually look for help in things I struggled with. The relationships I had with my teachers helped me to ask questions and not be afraid to ask, and that translates to how I interact with my professors now. My experiences with my fellow classmates and teachers helped me figure out how I learn best and what I excel at when it comes to studying. Most importantly I learned a lot about myself. I learned what I am good at, about the world around me, how to interact with people, and how to be a better student and person.

Importance of Alternative schools

Alternative schools should always be an important part of the education system to help a wide array of students succeed. But what is even more important is having school boards understand how alternative schools function and why they are needed. Alternative schools' budgets and policies are usually treated the same way as the common collegiate schools which can really hurt the potential of these schools. They are meant to be different and must be given the space to be so. Alternative schools face many issues that hinder their function, especially when it comes to cuts to staffing and courses. School boards should recognize that Alternative schools are made to help students who do not fit the curriculum and education that traditional schools follow. Deciding on an alternative school's budget sizes based on enrollment and other factors that are generally used for collegiate schools doesn’t make sense since a common element of an alternative school is their small size. This means they will always be given a smaller budget and are more prone to cuts. Throughout my four years at Delphi, there were constant talks about things changing and getting cut because of policy and budget and it made me realize how important the education I was getting there was. 

In 2009, an article written by the Globe and Mail highlighted the openings of new alternative schools in Toronto and how they wanted to catch up to and match places like New York that have plenty of specialized schools [1]. But now 13 years later nothing has really changed. The CBC recently published an article discussing the cuts alternative schools are facing and the fears that alternative school students have in regards to these cuts [2]. The most important takeaway is that these schools are very important for students like me because these schools are designed to understand the students that attend them and help with the multitude of intersectional issues that students face. They were a second home, a safe haven, a place of expression, and much more. Hopefully, the importance of alternative schools is recognized and given the proper attention they need. It is my hope that alternative schools will be allowed to grow and flourish throughout all school boards rather than facing more cuts and demolition.