Here are some FAQs regarding life at our school.
THE SCHOOL YEAR
Do you have any orientation for new students?
Most of our new students are in Kindergarten and grade one. Westmount's School Council had a gathering in May for these grades. Kindergarten students have a "staggered entry" at the start of the school year, with a portion of the class coming on the first instructional day, and other portions on the next few days, with everyone all together after everyone has had a chance to come with the smaller group. This information will be sent to parents directly by the kindergarten teachers during the summer break. Parents are welcome to accompany their K-1 students to class on the first day and stay for a little while.
As for new mid-high students, an orientation session is often offered by the admin team just prior to the beginning of school, and the student services team spend extra time with new students during the first week of school.
What should my child bring on the first day of school?
No matter what the grade, on the first day of school it is best to just send the basics - a notebook of some sort and something to write with. Elementary students may wish to bring some basic art supplies, too. Mid-high students should bring their "textbook caution cheque" with them, details to be announced in late August . The most recent student supplies list is posted here.
Each elementary classroom is a little different when it comes to the use and storage of school supplies, but that will be made clear within the first couple of days. Mid-High students have lockers, but it takes a week or so to finalize locker assignments. As noted on the supply list, High School students need to supply their own locks, whereas Mid Grade students will have a lock supplied by the school.
Do you really do school photos prior to the school year?
We have done this for the past few years, following the practice of many High Schools in Calgary. This allows the school (for emergency ID purposes) and student (for library/ID card) to have their photo ID from the very first day of school. This year's photo days are August 22-23-24, from 9 AM to 3 PM, in the elementary campus gym.
Does Westmount have school uniforms?
No. However, just as there is a mode of dress suitable for business, professional work, the playing field, the gymnasium, or various social activities, there is also a mode of dress suitable for the classroom. Good taste and judgment are among the educational goals we aspire to develop in our students. For more specific information about our dress code, please consult the parent/student handbook.
When are the report cards? Do you use percentages or letter grades?
The most recent reporting cycle is posted here.
Report Cards, along with course selection and student timetables, are accessed via HomeLogic. Click here to sign up for HomeLogic, here for a Home Logic Learning Guide, or for a tutorial video on signing up, click here.
Mid-High Courses use percentage marks, while elementary classes use the following letter grades:
E for exceeding,
C for commendable,
M for meeting expectations, and
N for not yet evidenced.
When do I meet my son/daughter's teachers? How do I book a time to meet with them regarding student progress?
There are meet-the-teacher nights in mid-September (date to be posted on the online calendar). Parents of high school students, please check your son/daughter's timetable to see which teachers they will have in the spring semester, as there has not typically been a second meet-the-teacher time in the spring.
Formal Parent-Teacher interview days will also be noted on the school's online calendar. Typically, these are by appointment only, at the request of parents or teachers - just send the teacher an email to arrange a time. The spring Parent-Teacher time is done using a "Student Led Conference" format for elementary and mid-grade year-long courses (with no formal appointment times), with High School classes and mid-grade semestered classes still following a book-an-appointment Parent-Teacher format.
In addition, parents and staff are encouraged, when the need arises, to request an after-school meeting to develop strategies that will enable the student to improve. For some tips on developing positive communications with your child's teachers, click here!
Are there opportunities to get to know other Westmount parents? What is expected of me as a Westmount parent?
School Council meetings are held on a monthly basis, alternating between our two campuses - see the website's monthly calendar for dates. School Council meetings are a great place to get involved with other parents at our school, and an excellent place to keep track of what is happening on "the other campus".
In addition, involvement with school organizations such as the Westmount Music Association ("Band Parents") or the planning team for our annual "Spring Fling" silent auction fundraiser, are great meeting-places.
We encourage each family to contribute at least ten volunteer hours each year. Volunteerism is a key aspect of student life, particularly at high school, and it's great if students can see their parents modeling this. We have found it to be a key aspect in building a positive, engaged school culture for everyone concerned.
Do you have a Christmas Concert, or other school concerts? Do all grades K-12 participate?
As a school with a very rich diversity of cultures, for many years we have offered concerts in December: Deck the Halls - a celebration of the season, an afternoon event for elementary grade students, and the Winter Band/Orchestra/Choir concerts, for grade 5-12 students. Check the online calendar for both events.
Elementary grades have monthly assemblies, each month's assembly featuring presentations by a different grade, and parents are most welcome to attend. Additional Band/Orchestra/Choir concerts are held throughout the school year - check the WMA website, or Westmount online calendar, for details.
My child is in the Kindergarten program at Westmount. Is it true that they have to re-apply for grade one?
YES. Although Kindergarten is now becoming part of our gifted programming, with screening based on materials provided by parents and other nominators, students admitted into 2012-2013 Kindergarten will be assessed for grade one in the spring of 2013. Enrollment in Westmount's Kindergarten program does not guarantee enrollment in grade one, but Westmount's 2012-2013 Kindergarten students will be given first priority in 2013-2014 placement decisions.
Do Westmount students in grades 1-11 have to re-apply each year?
Once students have been accepted into the grade 1-12 program and are achieving at a suitable level, they do not need to go through the assessment process each year, but parents do need to log in and re-register their children each January/February, and pay a deposit toward the next year's instructional resource and transportation fees. This is our only way of knowing how many spaces will be available for new students, and gaining the information needed to plan the following year's bus routes.
I've heard about a laptop program at Westmount. Where would I learn more?
Westmount's laptop program began in January 2010 with a pilot project involving grade 10 students. Following that very successful pilot program, the laptop program continued in the fall of 2010, with the incoming grade 6s and 10s involved. In 2012-2013, grades 6-12 are "mandatory laptop" grades, with grade 5s joining the mandatory laptop program for the second half of their year. In mid-grades (5-8) only Mac computers are used, whereas in grades 9-12 students may bring a device on any platform as long as it is able to submit assignments to teachers in a Mac-readable format. For full details and forms, click here.
I understand that you don't charge tuition, but as with any publicly-funded school there are some instructional resource fees. What are the fees, and are fee waivers available?
A schedule of the current school year's instructional resource fees is available here; if you feel that you need to apply for a fee waiver, click here to download the form. Please note that transportation fees are not eligible for waiver. In addition, if your mid-high student is interested in going on one of the "big trips" (eg., grade 8 West Coast trip, grade 9/10 Asper Foundation trip to Washington DC, Fine Arts trip to NYC or Humanitarian trip to Nepal), there are bursaries available - click here for the bursary information and form.
If my child is going to be away at a medical appointment, or is ill and will not be attending school, how do I notify the school?
Please call your child's campus (403.217.0426 for elementary, 403.217.9427 for mid-high), pick option 1, and leave a message. PLEASE indicate your child's symptoms if he/she is ill, to help the school know if there are a large number of students away with similar symptoms. This line is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This line is very busy from 7:00-9:00 AM on school days, so if you know about your child's absence in advance, please call ahead of time.
We do ask, in the interest of everyone's health, that children be kept home if they are ill. In particular, it is important that children showing symptoms of "Influenza-Like Illness" (see the Health and Wellness page for more on this) stay home until they have been symptom-free for 24 hours.
How will you let me know if there is a snow day or other emergency school closure?
In the event of inclement weather, school closures will be reported: by email; by text message to those who have subscribed to this feature via the login area of the school website; by posting on the school’s website; and through announcements on specific media outlets, i.e., local TV (Global, City, CFCN) and AM Radio (660 News, CHQR 770, CBC 1010).
If we are going to be away for an extended vacation or other lengthy absence, do we get a homework package from the school?
It happens from time to time that parents take students out of school for a matter of days or weeks to vacation as a family. Learning will, in every case, be impacted to some extent by the student absence. The degree of impact will be different depending upon the subject, the grade level of the student, and the amount of advance preparation by the student. The teaching that will take place in your child’s absence cannot be accomplished through a paper package created by staff members.
Apart from lengthy major assignments such as essays, which your child will need to complete in order to receive a grade, students and their families should agree on daily activities that will support learning in a general sense, and help the student to get the most out of the time spent in an interesting place.
Please do not request that teachers prepare lessons, assignments or activities for your student’s extended absence.
My child forgot to bring his/her lunch. What happens next?
In past years, we have had emergency lunch supplies available at the elementary office - all the student needs to do is come and ask, and a simple lunch will be provided. Parents and students are reminded, however, that this "emergency" service is not intended as a replacement for or supplement to bringing a proper lunch. Please also remember to send cutlery with your child if it is needed - the office goes through hundreds of disposable forks and spoons each year!
For students in grades 7-12, there are numerous "fast food" vendors within easy walking distance of the school. Our previous "hot lunch" provider, Prairie House Deli, is making substantial, exciting changes to its business model but will no longer be providing lunches at Westmount. At present, it appears that there will not be a replacement vendor stepping in to this role - watch for future plans during the 2012-2013 school year.
My child has potentially life-threatening allergies/need medication administered at school. How do I inform you, and how is that handled?
At annual registration/re-registration time, the online registration system asks a variety of medical questions and has a link to the "Administration of Prescription Medication and/or Medical Treatment Form" (form may be downloaded here). If your child has life-threatening allergies, and/or has medication or treatments that need to be administered at school, this form MUST be completed annually, signed by a physician, and returned to the Office at your campus. This information enables the school and its staff to develop commonly-understood emergency plans, should that student come into contact with his/her allergens.
Students with life-threatening allergies need to carry an Epinephrine auto-injector (Epi-Pen, Twin-Ject) at all times AND if it is an Epi-Pen, a backup/second dose needs to be stored at the Office. Other parent-provided medications are labelled and stored at the Office.
Parents and students are to recognize the importance of not having common anaphylaxis-inducing allergens (in particular, peanuts, tree nuts and nut products) in students' lunches and in foods sent to school for class parties. All students are discouraged from sharing lunch items, and this is particularly imperative in the case of students with life-threatening allergies. Hand-washing before lunch is another important practice to prevent cross-contamination. In addition, each monthly newsletter reminds the school community of the importance of keeping our environment "nut sensitive."
The school does its best to ensure that food vendors contracted by the school, do not knowingly sell foods containing nuts or nut products. It is still important to "read the label", as some convenience foods may change their production process from batch to batch.
Does Westmount offer before and after school care?
The school itself does not provide before or after care, but a private service provider, Westmount Student Care, has provided before and after school care for elementary students for many years on a fee-for-service basis. Their phone number is 403.279.3190.
Please note that the school staff are available to supervise students from 8:15 a.m. (mid-high) or 8:20 a.m. (elementary). Parents should make every effort to pick up their child(ren) as soon as the school day ends. If you are going to be earlier, or later, than these times, please make alternate arrangements for your child.
Is there a playground? Recess?
Our campuses do not yet have playground equipment, but do have access to large playing fields and our Physical Education/Health and Wellness team provide lots of play equipment. Westmount has a very active Playground Committee which is working hard to plan and raise funds for a playground at the elementary campus, and for an outdoor fitness area at the mid-high campus.
There are recess times in the morning, afternoon, and at lunchtime for elementary students. Mid-grade students have a morning recess and Mid-High students have ample time at lunch break to get outside for some fresh air and recreation!
What is the school's stance on Homework?
Please click here for a document dealing with homework expectations at Westmount Charter School.
Is there a school newsletter?
We have discontinued our old "hard copy" newsletter and replaced it with an "Online Newsletter" - click here!
Are there maps of the school campuses?
Due to security concerns, we will not be posting floor plans online. For a basic indication of the locations and neighbourhoods, click here.
Are you part of the CBE (Calgary Board of Education)? I'm still a bit confused about Charter Schools.
Westmount is entirely separate from the Calgary Board of Education. Each Charter School in Alberta is an autonomous, publicly funded school with its own elected Board. For more information about Alberta's Charter Schools, click here. Like a typical community-based school, we levy a modest instructional resource fee but are publicly funded - we cannot and do not charge tuition.
16 May 2013