For the first time, the Peel District School Board has centralized the registration of immigrant students at the three new centres in Brampton, Mississauga and Malton, where newcomers are assessed and offered orientation interviews before being enrolled in one of the board’s 236 schools. The centres are made possible by a $3.7 million grant from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Eleven secondary schools and six middle schools in the Peel District School Board are host sites for the 2009 NOW and WIN programs. The programs were created to ease newcomer families into the school system by assisting families through orientation activities.
Newcomer Orientation Week (NOW) provides an intensive four-day program for secondary students who are new to Canada. NOW is offered in August and September at 11 schools, and helps newly-arrived high school students prepare for school and gives them the opportunity to make new friends.
Welcome and Information for Newcomers (WIN) program, is a one-day middle school orientation program for parents and students who are new to Canada. The WIN program is offered to students in grades 6, 7 and 8 at six different schools on September 1.
Not only do parents get questions about the education system answered, settlement counsellors are available to connect the adults with services and programs available in their neighbourhoods, from language training to job search.
Free child-minding is also provided.
“This is full one-stop shopping,” said Brian Woodland, the board’s director of communications. “It makes a big difference. In the past, people had gone to local schools to register and had to go to multiple places to get their immunization, school and immigration documents. Now, they don’t have to go to 20 different places for 20 different things.”
Since the school system is often the first contact for newcomers, offering settlement referral services on the spot makes sense. Half the students in the board speak a language at home other than English or French, said Woodland.