March 12, 2014 · 0 Comments
By Tabitha Wells
After 25 years of operation, The Maples Independent Country School is taking a step into the next chapter of the school’s history, as it goes through a shift in ownership, amidst other changes. Brian and Philomena Logel, who have run the school since opening it in 1989 are stepping down as the new owner, Aaron Sawatsky steps in.
Mr. Sawatsky, who runs two private academies in Mississauga, including The Maples’ new sister school, St. Jude’s, comes from a strong background in private education, which is part of why he was chosen to take over.
“I can’t stress enough how happy we are that we were able to find somebody who has the same values and the same academic standards as what my wife and I tried to promote in the school,” explained Mr. Logel. “We started the school 25 years ago because we were unhappy with the education our own children were receiving in the public school system.”
One of the big things The Maples’ education system has been built on is values education, which teaches students a respect for community, services and human life. Over their time at the school, students are required to participate in service projects which give back to the community, something that St. Jude’s has also done as part of their education.
“The similarities just really made sense,” said Mr. Sawatsky. “It wasn’t a school where I had to come in and change a whole bunch of things, it really was just a continuation of what we were already doing.”
Last week, St. Jude’s paid The Maples a visit, to celebrate in their new sister-hood and spend some time with each other. Students at the school were divided into a house system to match their sister school, and were assigned house colours and Greek names.
“They did kind of a Harry Potter ceremony of bringing the kids up and letting them know their houses,” said Mr. Logel. “It was really exciting for the students, especially with their new sister school there to watch.”
Along with the ceremony, students also had the opportunity to engage in a basketball game between the two schools, and the students from St. Jude’s were able to visit their respective grade classrooms and spend some time playing out in the yard.
“The yard was a big hit,” said Mr. Logel. “We have five acres here, and at St. Jude’s they have a parking lot. Being a city school, it’s just a totally different situation coming down here.”
The sale of the school came into play shortly after Mr. Logel began to experience some health issues. Last March, he underwent triple bypass surgery, and while he has recovered completely, he and his wife decided it was time to prepare for the future.
“It just kind of made me realize that I’m not going to be around forever,” he said. “Rather than have to do a sudden change without any planning if anything happened, we decided it was better to make a change now, and we were able to select who was going to take over.”
One of the changes the school will be encountering is its progression into an IB School (International Baccalaureate), which is a worldwide education program designed to teach a stronger values system. The IB also focuses on using similar practices and overarching ideas to teach school curriculums, which helps eliminate having hundreds of different ways to teach the same curriculum to students, allowing for a more consistent, stronger base of education. Since St. Jude’s is already an IB school, the transition made sense.
“It’s finding out best practices for education,” explained Mr. Sawatsky. “When our teachers do all their professional development, they see these courses and can see how to run their classes in the best possible way.”
While the program allows for interpretation to bring the education down to local levels (i.e., looking at the methods of immigration in Canada, instead of Sweden), the topics are the same, ensuring that the level, quality and content of education is consistent in IB schools world-wide.
“We’re very excited about this,” said Mr. Sawatsky. “Orangeville has grown up a lot. It’s ready for an IB program. There is a level of sophistication in Orangeville now and an IB school attracts that, so I think that it is going to be very welcome here.”
The change is to be implemented in the fall, allowing teachers to take the necessary courses to prepare for the next school year. While generally it takes much longer to become a sanctioned, functioning IB School, St. Jude’s IB status allows for a faster transition.
Another change the school has encountered is a change in the name. With the ownership changeover, which was effective on March 1, the school is now called The Maples Academy, the term used for the other private schools Mr. Sawatsky runs.
“It’s been a very, very busy season for us,” said Mr. Logel. “Just with working out all the details, making the transition, and combining the two schools. But it’s a very exciting time for us with all the changes.”
For the first time ever, the school will be introducing busing under Mr. Sawatsky’s leadership, as well as re-introducing a pre-school program. While one was offered for seven years, the licence was only for half a day, which led to some difficulties. The new program will be offered in the fall, and will be full-day.
While the transition may be a lot of work, both Mr. Logel and Mr. Sawatsky believe the changes are all for the best and the improvement of the school. The Maples Academy will be the first IB School in Dufferin County, which makes them part of a quickly growing initiative not just world-wide, but in Ontario as well.
“It’s taking off. It’s expanding rapidly because it’s the type of education that parents want,” explained Mr. Sawatsky. “Public schools are tripping over themselves to start some IB schools because everyone knows that this is a good thing. We’re the first in the area and we’re really looking forward to working with that and growing with that.”