New Kids on the Block

Parents and schools can work together to help children transition to a new school


This fall, a lot of students will be moving on from elementary school to high school – a transition that used to be far more daunting in the past than it is today.  


Norma McDonald, principal at Immaculata High School, says a lot of changes have been made over the past decade to ensure the transition from one school to the next runs smoothly.


“It’s not a process or kind of a one-off that happens in the springtime of the year anymore. It’s a kindergarten to Grade 12 approach that these are our students, they’re just not here yet,” she explains.

“For example, at Immaculata, we have five elementary schools where children would come to us from. We are in each other’s schools, we’re inviting students in all the time – I’m over there, the students are here. We’re partnering them up with high school students who go into the elementary schools and do projects, referee their sports teams, coach their sports teams. It’s a flow – a family of schools approach where the children are used to either coming to high school or seeing our high school people in their elementary schools.”


McDonald says, often times, the parents are as anxious about the school transition as the children are and she believes communication is key.

“I would advise parents to come into the school, call, set up an appointment with the principal. The more communication and the more conversation that the adult can have around that transition of the child, I think, puts the parent at ease which, in turn, puts the child at ease,” she explains.


Of course, things are a bit different for children who are transferring schools mid-year and perhaps even between different districts.

Deborah Langdon, principal at St. Michael School, says, once again, the key to making that transition as smooth as possible is communication.


“It’s important to talk to your kids about making the move – taking it as something that happens. Giving them the tools so they know what to do if they run into a particular situation. Checking out the website and giving them something to look forward to and to make a connection with the new school,” she explains.


The school also does its part to try welcome new students into the family and try to ease any anxieties they might have.


“We sit down, we talk with the parents. We also make connections with the previous school to see if there are any learning or social concerns and things that interest the child. Then, when they come in, we’ve got a little bit of a leg up to understand where they’re coming from,” Langdon says.


“I always take our new families on a tour of the new school so they can see those really important things – like the water fountain and the bathroom – those important things that kids need to know before their first day. They’ve laid eyes on their classroom teacher, they see a few friends, and that really seems to help quite a bit.”