Three new families reflect on the reasoning behind their choice
Sending a three-year-old to school can make any parent anxious, and Selina Meng was no exception. “I had a lot of concerns because she’s so young,” says Ms. Meng, whose daughter Angelina – a December baby – started Junior Kindergarten in September. “But now I have no worries. She’s happy – which is the most important thing.”
Ms. Meng and her husband knew they wanted Angelina to attend a girls’ school, so they investigated several in Toronto. She says they were attracted to the academic reputation of BSS above all, but also to the philosophy of nurturing girls to be fearless and to become leaders. “We liked the fact that BSS is a heritage school with a global community too, but it was the Open House that made up our minds. I fell in love with the school at this event, with everything – from the architecture to the safe, fun learning environment.”
As they moved towards finalizing their choice, Ms. Meng says they were constantly impressed by the support of the Student Recruitment staff. “They answered every question we had, and even some we didn’t ask. We felt we had everything we needed to make an informed decision.”
Despite being one of the youngest students in her class, Ms. Meng says Angelina has blossomed in her first semester. “She just loves it. She calls it ‘my BSS,’ and her teacher ‘my Miss Murray.’ She’s made lots of friends, even among the Senior Kindergarten students.”
On the academic side, Ms. Meng has also seen real changes over just a few months. “She’s become more confident and willing to take on challenges with her learning.” While she was unwilling to try writing in the beginning, for example, with her teacher’s encouragement she now enjoys it.
Ms. Meng says the reception from the BSS community has been just as warm towards her and her husband. “The school is so welcoming, it’s almost like a family.”
When Lutz Zeitler’s daughter Penelope was accepted at all four girls’ schools she applied to last spring, he and his wife Kirsten spent a weekend driving her to each campus to have a last look around. At the end of the tour, Penelope told him she knew where she should go. “She had such a simple reason,” he says. “She said, ‘Every time I visit BSS, I just leave feeling so good inside.’ That sealed the deal.”
As the younger brother of two BSS Old Girls from the 1980s, Mr. Zeitler had some familiarity with the school. But he says this connection didn’t dictate the family’s decision. “We felt we owed it to Penelope – and to ourselves – to fully analyze the situation by looking at other schools and what they had to offer.”
Initially, they were leaning towards the school closest to their home where several of Penelope’s friends planned to go. “As we started going to the campuses and meeting people – from the faculty and students to the admissions staff – BSS quickly became our top pick,” he says. “Proximity and existing friends, which were important drivers in the beginning, became afterthoughts.”
For Mr. Zeitler, the BSS Open House played a pivotal role in shaping his opinion. “What we particularly liked was the way we all got to go into real classroom settings. We were able to observe and get a really good sense of the teaching methodology.”
He was also grateful for the chance to talk to families of alumnae, as well as to current parents. “We could ask them anything, and their feedback was spectacular. There was just a very warm and nurturing feeling that we got from BSS. We believed it was an environment that Penelope would thrive in.”
And she has. Since starting Grade 7 in September, Mr. Zeitler says Penelope has been “such a happy kid.” As an elite synchronized swimmer, her schedule is especially demanding and leaves little time for extracurricular activities. But she’s still made lots of friends and feels fully part of the BSS community.
“Everyone at the school has encouraged and adapted to her needs as an athlete,” says Mr. Zeitler. “To me, that’s a great approach and it reaffirms that we made the right choice.”
For Emmy Voges, coming to BSS fulfilled a childhood dream sparked by the Enid Blyton book series, which chronicles a girl’s adventures at boarding school. “Blyton made boarding school sound so cool, so I’ve always had a fascination with the idea,” says Emmy, who left Nassau, Bahamas, to start Grade 9 at BSS in the fall. “I also wanted to get an exceptional education, which is hard to do back home.”
At first, she thought about attending a school in England, but it was too far from her family. Toronto soon became her preferred option, largely due to its urban, cosmopolitan appeal. “I’m very much a city person,” she says. “I like big places and having the option to do a lot of things.”
Emmy and her parents began researching Toronto’s girls’ schools from a distance. “Even before I came to see BSS, the community seemed very welcoming,” she says. In the fall of 2016, she travelled to Toronto to see several schools, and BSS was the last stop. “I vividly remember pulling up and noticing the Hogwarts-like look of the campus. Then I had a tour of the school, and I instantly fell in love.”
Emmy says getting an insider’s view of day-to-day life at BSS won her over. “I got to go to Boarding and see girls studying for exams, and sit in classrooms where the students seemed to be really invested in what they were doing.”
While adapting to a new country and curriculum has brought some cultural and academic challenges, Emmy says there is always a faculty member, guidance counsellor or Boarding staff member available to help. She’s made many friends from both Day school and Boarding, and even found time to land the lead in the Grade 9/10 play.
As for her expectations of boarding school, she says BSS has lived up to all of them. “This is a such a friendly, cozy place. Even though there are 70 of us, I feel like it replicates a family as best as it can.”
Megan Easton is a freelance writer and editor with a special interest in education and health.