Alternative Program with Core French

The Alternative Program

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board offers a range of programs to support all students to achieve their personal best. One program that we offer is the Alternative Elementary Program. The Alternative program is based on a concept of student-centered learning and this philosophy translates into all aspects of a student’s experience at school. The program provides students opportunities to meet Ministry expectations through 7 core alternative tenets which set the program apart from others in the OCDSB.

About program access:

Available to all: The alternative program welcomes all OCDSB students.   

Starting at an alternative school in kindergarten: Many families choose the alternative program for their children from the start of kindergarten. As with all other OCDSB schools, the kindergarten program is offered 50% in English and 50% in French. 

Transferring to an alternative school: Alternative schools welcome students transferring in at any grade. Some families transfer to an alternative school as they are excited about the tenets (educational approach) and/or the school culture; other families transfer to an alternative school when they move into the neighbourhood and find themselves close to an alternative school. Transfers can happen throughout the school year. 

School catchment: The OCDSB has four Kindergarten - Grade 6 alternative schools and one Grade 7-8 alternative school. Your family is located in the catchment area for one of the K-6 schools - find out which school here. All OCDSB grade 7-8 students are eligible to attend Summit Alternative. The alternative schools are:

Transportation: Unless you are within walking distance of your alternative school, your child is eligible to take a school bus (Gr K-6) or receive an OCTranspo Presto Pass (Gr 7-8). Check out this link to learn more.

About the Alternative tenets in action:

At OCDSB elementary Alternative schools, you will see a program that fosters leadership, collaboration, problem-solving, empathy, and well-being through 7 alternative program tenets. While aspects of the the alternatives tenets are found in many of the schools across the District, teachers at alternative schools intentionally hold the tenets at the core of their practice and the tenets are consciously infused throughout the school community. 

Here are the 7 tenets with examples of what you will commonly see at an OCDSB alternative school:

1. Cooperation and teamwork: Children who are motivated from within instead of by rewards will become lifelong learners, eager to take on challenges.  

  • All students can participate in sports teams, extra curriculars, and clubs regardless of their abilities. 
  • Everyone’s contribution is valued. Students work in a variety of groups for different activities, developing valuable leadership skills, problem-solving skills, as well as the ability to empathize with their peers. 
  • No awards or prizes are given in order to foster a sense of accomplishment that doesn’t depend on external rewards.
  • The culture of inclusion extends from the class to the yard and to all activities.

2. Innovative approaches to teaching and learning happen through a shared responsibility among staff, students, and parents.

  • Teachers use innovative teaching approaches such as experiential and inquiry-based learning.
  • Many of the program sites include a focus on outdoor learning, some incorporating aspects of forest schools.
  • Students are engaged in authentic project-based learning where they participate in the planning, implementation, and assessment of real world initiatives (e.g., building a garden; simulated stock market). Curriculum subjects are woven throughout the projects.

3. A balance between student-directed and teacher-led learning: The teacher acts as a facilitator/mentor/guide of the child’s learning; this enhances self-concept, enthusiasm for learning, and personal responsibility.

  • Teachers are responsive and flexible in adapting the learning environment and activities to student needs.
  • Classroom arrangements foster collaboration (e.g., groups of students work together, flexible seating).
  • Students are given the opportunity to work on long term, deep learning tasks which allow them to discover their own personal interests and passions. 
  • The value of play as a pathway for learning is respected and honoured. Through play, problem-solving and leadership skills are naturally developed.

4. Purposeful multi-aged groupings among children of different ages and stages of development provides an environment wherein students learn from each other as well as from the teacher.

  • Classes collaborate on projects, building school-wide connections. (e.g., creation of a mural)
  • Buddies among older and younger grades (for math, reading, or other activities) foster empathy for a diversity of abilities and ways of learning/knowing.
  • Mentoring and student leadership happen as students in upper grades plan and lead activities for lower grades (e.g., winter play day; Alternative Schools Activity Day).

5. An integrated curriculum approach emphasizes the interrelation of all learning and subjects.

  • Learning experiences are designed to help children make connections across the curriculum.
  • Children are able to use their strengths in one area to complement learning in other areas.
  • Examples of subject integration are students applying math skills and science knowledge to solve an environmental issue in their school or deepening understanding of certain math concepts through art projects.

6.  A family & community-centered school environment is central to the program. Parents and community members are valued as partners in education and are always welcome to contribute.

  • Educators seek opportunities to bring the community into the classroom so students can see real world implications of their learning (e.g., visits with local retirement homes, collaboration with food banks, and visits to local businesses)
  • Parent volunteers are welcome in the classroom at any grade level no matter their skill set.
  • When possible, parents are asked to bring their expertise to their child’s classroom in the form of presentations, workshops, or other learning opportunities.

7. Ongoing assessment and evaluation with a primary focus on personal growth and student goal setting.

  • Students are assessed in multiple ways that best reflect their individual needs and learning styles.
  • There is a reduced emphasis on grades and traditional tests.
  • Students are engaged in self-reflection/assessment of individual assignments and projects.
  • Student-led conferences: Students guide their parents through personal learning goals and examples of successes and challenges faced in various subjects as shown through their learning portfolios.

Want to learn more about the program? 

1. Call the principal of your local alternative school. They are a great resource for learning more about the program.

2. Take a tour of your local alternative school and ask to see if you can speak to a few parents from the school council.

3. Check out the school websites (links above). You may also find some of the following resources of interest. Keep in mind that most of these communication tools have been created for community sharing rather than program promotion.

4. Alternative Schools Advisory Committee. ASAC is made up of parents and staff from all five OCDSB alternative schools and is the parent voice who advises the OCDSB Board of Trustees regarding the program.

Frequently Asked Questions:

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