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Making The Grade At Minto — And Then Some

“It’s a wonderful thing to be recognized that something like this works and works well.”

– MI NTO SCHOOL PRINCIPAL FRAN JACKSON

When 40 or so Minto schoolchildren head back to class this fall, they will be attending an institution that’s been recognized as one of the top 20 schools in Canada.

The tiny, southwestern Manitoba K to 8 school earned the ranking from Today’s Parent, which selected its winners from more than 100 submissions across the country.

The magazine each September runs a feature honouring 20 Canadian schools for outstanding achievements for creating respectful environments, strong programming, or outstanding extracurricular activities.

Minto School is the smallest public school being recognized and earns its ranking in a category that specially recognizes a school’s commitment to its community. Two other schools among the 20, including George E. Luck Elementary School in Edmonton, Alberta, and St. John Boscoe Catholic School in Brockville, Ontario, were also recognized for community involvement. Both have several hundred students.

Minto school principal Fran Jackson was utterly delighted and a little bit shocked to receive word last week.

“A national magazine like that… I couldn’t believe it, and especially when you think of the other schools also mentioned in our category and the number of students and staff that they have. It’s wonderful to be recognized like this.”

This is the sixth year Today’s Parent has accepted nominations for best schools in Canada. The goal is to recognize “the good stuff” that schools are doing and inspire readers to try similar things, said Caroline Connell, editor of Today’s Parent.

“It’s a way for us to reach our readers right across Canada,” she said.

“We get these submissions and then organize them into categories. Then we look for the ones that really have something special going on.”

Connell said what impressed judges about Minto was not only the way the community provides free use of the rink and hall for the school’s recreational and large-gathering needs, but how its ties extend far beyond optimum use of local infrastructure.

“We’re stuck here in downtown Toronto,” she said. “We don’t get out to places like Minto very much. So it’s kind of a little window for us on the life of our readers in these rural communities.”

Jackson said encouraging students to volunteer for community activities is an important activity at Minto School. Volunteerism helps students learn how to be young leaders and how to keep a town lively and viable, she said.

“When they say schools should be teaching about citizenship, being a community school we

already do that. This is nothing new to us.”

Minto itself as a community is a “very, very active community,” Jackson adds. “Our community offers a lot, and the school is just an extension of that.”

Ninette-area farmer and mother of two, Carrie Smith, nominated Minto last fall to Today’s Parent. She was ecstatic to learn Minto would be recognized. “It was just great news that they picked up on the reasons we chose to send our kids there.”

Those reasons include small class size, excellent teachers, and “amazing stuff they do with the kids,” she said.

The Smiths’ young daughter begins Grade 1 at Minto this fall. Their son, now just three and attending Minto Nursery School, will attend in future. Smith knows only too well how key a school is for a community. Ninette’s school closed several years ago and “it’s a big hole in the community,” she said. “So to be able to be part of Minto is great.”

Turtle Mountain School Division superintendent Larry Rainnie said it comes as no surprise to learn Minto School is being recognized. Their Parent Advisory Council, principal and staff clearly demonstrate commitment to their community and have an exceptional relationship with it, he said.

“This not only enriches the lives and experiences of the students but it really enriches the lives of the community,” he said. Turtle Mountain School Division aims to keep its smaller schools open, and has as a policy no closures unless the minimum enrolment drops below 20 students.

“We do feel that the education that our students are getting in our small schools is top notch,” Rainnie said.

Jackson said the message this sends to anyone who thinks bigger schools are better is clear. “What we have, even though we’re small, is better.

“It’s a wonderful thing to be recognized that something like this works and works well,” she added.

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TOPAMONG 20: Minto School is the smallest public school among 20 best schools in Canada according to national magazine Today’s Parent. Pictured (l. to r.) are school principal Fran Jackson and educational assistants Carrie Smith and Mary Chambers along with students from Grades K-8 at Minto School posing for a photo.

About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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