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Upper Canada schools welcome Syrian students

assessments, housing, settlement plan deve- lopment, local schools, volunteering services and programs, community connections, conversational English and French practice circles, and other services related to learning and practising a new language, including school support aids. Mills reported that the UCDSB will pro- vide professional development assistance for school district administrators, teachers, and support staff, to prepare them to both welcome and aid Syrian students enrolling in neighbourhood schools, and also to assist the families of those students with any ques- tions or concerns for their children. The district will also inventory existing support services available on the board’s internal website and through its Virtual Lear- ning Commons, research and identify poten- tial provincial funding assistance sources, and confirmcoordination and partnerships with local community agencies and other groups for mutual support.


As the Syrian refugee crisis continues, one school district in EasternOntario ismaking sure it is ready to welcome students from refugee families andmeet both their edu- cational and emotional support needs. Superintendent Tim Mills of the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) updated trustees, during their February session, on district preparations for han- dling Syrian refugee students as they enrol in area schools and become part of the overall student population. Mills reported that the UCDSB, through its schools and its TR Leger Immigrant Ser- vices branch, has all the supports in place “to welcome a potentially large number of refugee students and their families, from Syria and beyond”, as both the federal and provincial governments work on settlement plans for 10,000 Syrian refugees in Ontario this year. “Because of the nature of the conflict in Syria,” Mills told trustees, “and the difficul- ties with resettlement that refugees have experienced, we’ve been told to expect some newcomers arriving in Canada will have higher needs than those arriving fromother countries.” The UCDSB has already assimilated child- ren from three refugee families settled in EasternOntario and registered them for kin- dergarten, elementary, and secondary scho- ols, and also for support programs through the TR Leger School of Adult, Alternative and Continuing Education. Mills noted that some of these students may have special emotional and psychological trauma needs for the district’s specialized support staff to help address. “In some cases, families have lost one or both parents in the conflict,” Mills said.

Syrian children coming to Canada will find a warmwelcome around the Upper Canada school district, and for many, it may be a change from the school classrooms they sat in while living in the refugee camps in that war-torn country. —photos archives

“As well, some families will have children who have experienced deep trauma, or are faced with other challenges that come with learning a new language and adapting to a new culture.” Mills noted that the UCDSB has extensive resources able to assist refugee students, their families, and school staff. “We’re fortunate in that at TR Leger, we have access to English-as-a-second-lan- guage programming and staff experienced in receiving newcomers. With our community partners, we already offer a wide variety of supports and services to welcome these newcomers and ease their transition to life in the communities we serve.” Among the support services available through TR Leger and some district schools, Mills noted, are help with navigating local and regional community services, informa- tion to assist immigrant families on needs

One of the school districts in EasternOnta- rio has reached a tentative agreement with the union representing its support workers. The Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) and the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 5678 (CUPE) agreed Feb. 25 on a tentative memorandum of settlement dealing with contract issues for education support staff at Upper Canada district scho- ols.The two sides have been in negotiations since November last year. “I am very pleased to see we have rea- ched a tentative agreement with our CUPE staff,” stated Jeff McMillan, UCDSB chair- man. “They play an essential role in our system. The hard work and commitment of all of those involved in these talks allowed us to reach a fair agreement acceptable to School district and union cut a deal both sides. We can now continue to focus on our core mission of student achievement.” “I and the CUPE bargaining unit are very pleased with the outcome of these talks,” sta- ted Sue Hanson, CUPE Local 5678 president. “Whenever you go into negotiations, you always go in with a wish list of a little more than what you think you might get. But, in the end, this round of bargaining has been successful and I think our members will be pleased with the results.” CUPE Local 5678 represents about 1300 support staff working in Upper Canada dis- trict schools. Terms of the agreement remain confidential until the UCDSB board and the CUPE membership have held ratification votes during their scheduled meetings in March.

Community grants offer The Canada Post Community Foundation for Children is taking applications for grants. Deadline to apply is midnight, April 11. The foundation provides grants to eligible registered charities, non- profit community groups, district school programs, and youth and amateur sports groups. This year’s foundation grants fund totals $1.1 million. Last year the foundation provided grants for more than 100 projects in all 10 provinces and the three territories. Grant funds are raised through an annual five-week national campaign through local post offices via on-site donation boxes, sales of a special stamp, and also through approved employee contribution programs. Funds stay within the province or territory where they are collected. Grant applications are made online at community and undergo a review process. – Gregg Chamberlain Sweet lessons about maple syrup culture The South Nation Conservation Authority (SNC) offers its annual Maple Education Program through March until April 5. SNC, in partnership with Sand Road Maple Farm in Moose Creek, offers school groups a hands-on bilingual interpretive tour of the culture of maple syrup production in Ontario and Québec from when First Nations folks boiled maple sap in hollowed-out logs to the modern evaporators that are now part of the production process. The tour session includes lesson in tree identification and woodlot management. Tours for adults and non-school groups are also available through advance bookings. More details available from John Mesman, toll-free, at 1-877-984-2948, ext. 302, or – Gregg Chamberlain


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