Q&A with Kirsten Eastwood, Executive Director, Community Development at TMS

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Founded in 1961, TMS is a leading, accredited independent school in Richmond Hill, Ontario that offers a uniquely designed framework combining the Montessori (Toddler to Grade 6) and International Baccalaureate (Grades 7 to 12) Programs.  We spoke to Kirsten Eastwood, Executive Director, Community Development at TMS about the unique elements of this academic year.

How did TMS adapt when pandemic shutdowns hit Canada this spring?

Like many schools, we had to develop a completely new online program for our students to learn from the safety of their homes. This was particularly challenging for TMS, because the focus of the Montessori program is on student-specific learning materials as well as on collaborative work with students being in the same space. We were able to make this transition a reality through our teachers’ innovative use of tools like Zoom and Google Classroom. For our Upper School students, in addition to these online platforms, we also use an International Baccalaureate (IB) online learning management system called ManageBac.

How has TMS prepared for the new school year?

TMS spent the summer developing and fine tuning a very robust Return to School plan that guides us in everything from: Health and Safety, Classroom Protocols, Campus Access and much more.

As a result of that plan, and current public health guidelines, students from Grades 1-12 are wearing masks and we are splitting classes into cohorts with a maximum size of 15. We’ve hired additional teachers and enlisted a pool of supply teachers committed to working only at TMS, which helps keep our students as protected as possible.

We’ve incorporated outdoor learning time for our students throughout the day. We have tents set up throughout our grounds and we also just installed a monarch butterfly garden at our Lower School so students can learn about their habitat.

What health and safety supports is TMS providing its students?

All students, staff and faculty are required to complete daily health screening questionnaires.  We’ve made significant investments in ventilation and air filtration systems, and we’ve installed HEPA filtered air purifiers in all classrooms to ensure our school has the safest air quality possible. We’ve also installed Plexiglas dividers to divide tables in classrooms and purchased an iPad for each elementary student to reduce sharing of supplies (which are disinfected at the end of each day).  Both campuses also feature signage and decals to ensure physical distancing and safety measures.

What makes TMS unique as an educational institution?

We are one of the few schools in North America that combines the Montessori and IB programs. The key commonality between the two is their cultivation of curiosity, independence and a global outlook.  We’re committed to creating positive, resilient and entrepreneurial thinking mindsets and skill sets that help our students adapt to whatever work they will do in the future. I have personally witnessed tremendous growth in our recent Grade 12 graduates, who are adapting remarkably well to starting university in the midst of a pandemic.

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