The Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf is a picturesque 55 acre campus located in Belleville, Ontario on Dundas St. West (Hwy 2). The school has academic and technical programs for Elementary and Secondary level students, student residences as well as a Resource Centre, social work & psychological services, and other support services. Students have access to a gymnasium, fitness room, baseball diamond, soccer pitch, beach volleyball area and swimming pool.
The School is funded by the Ontario Ministry of Education, and no fees are requested from the parents; however, parents are expected to provide adequate clothing and financial support for their child(ren) attending school.
Students living within a 115-kilometre radius of the school or 70 minutes riding on a school bus are expected to be day students that commute to and from school every day. Students living at greater distances in eastern and northern Ontario stay in residences here and go home every weekend.
Residential Services, reporting to the Residence Manager, is responsible for the daily operation of both elementary and secondary residence programs. Residence programs offer a wide variety of programming, services, education, and activities. Additionally, Student Health Services and Aquatics report to the Residence Manager.
The goal of the residence program is to provide a child-centred, safe, home-like atmosphere, conducive to acquiring or improving new and knowledge, while encouraging independence, responsibility, in a positive social setting.
The Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf has been best known as “the Mother of Deaf Culture in Ontario”, and the residence program is one area where the students develop an appreciation and understanding of this unique opportunity. The life-long friends they have in residence and the interactions they have with organizations give the students valuable skills and experience.
The residence program has well-developed provincial standards of care, which cover all areas associated with residential life. In order to promote the safety and welfare of the students in residence programs, there must be safeguards in place. Staff training and development ensure that student support counsellors have the skills and knowledge to meet the needs of the students. Accountability processes are in place to monitor the students’ care and needs as identified in their Individual Residence Plans developed by primary counsellors and the parents are encouraged to be involved in the development and review of the students’ plans. The primary counsellor is expected to contact the parents as often as needed to keep them informed about their child(ren). During these conversations their child(ren) are discussed, and valuable information can be exchanged for the purpose of students’ development in the areas of personal, intellectual, emotional, and social needs.
The residence program advocates an open communication policy with the parents through phone calls, video calls, letters, emails, communication books, and visits to the school. The parents are always welcome to make contact with their child(ren) and the staff at the residences. To make the residences more comfortable and as home-like, students are encouraged to bring articles that relate to home (i.e. family pictures, favourite toys or stuffed animals, bedspread or comforter [single size], poster, etc.).
Although the residential programs offer a wide variety of educational and recreational activities, students are also encouraged to become involved in activities in the community. The individual’s needs and interests are paramount, and they sometimes can be better met in the community.
The residence programs are staffed after school, through the overnight, until school begins; this provides the students with individual counselling, resources for personal interests, activity and program involvement, and a safe environment. Staff training and development remains a high priority; a wide range of training supports the safety and welfare of the students. This includes First Aid/ CPR; Behaviour Management Systems; conflict resolution; restorative practices; child abuse reporting; ASL competency, and defensive driving to name a few.
The residence program is an integral asset in the students’ growth. With the parents and staff working as a team, the students will derive the best of care and attention to meet their individual needs.