Back in 2016, The Florentine wrote about Blyth Academy Florence, a new international school about to be inaugurated. Four years on, we revisit the school, now the Canadian School of Florence, as it opens its doors again to students after the long months of lockdown. We spoke to Head of School, Gary O’Meara, who has been at the helm since the beginning.
TF: You’ve been heading the school since the beginning four years ago. How has the school evolved since then?
GOM: We started with just over 20 students in September 2017 and we’ve grown to almost 120 students (which is our maximum), and that’s necessitated a number of major changes to our school building. We also became a part of the global educational group of schools, Globeducate. It allows for a lot of co-operation between the schools, and through that we became a member of Eco Schools with the World Wildlife Fund to address issues of sustainability, which of course has become an even bigger issue in the time of Covid-19. We also changed our name to Canadian School of Florence to reflect that we are offering the Canadian Ontario curriculum, not that we are a school solely for Canadian students. In fact, most of our students are Italian. The Ontario Diploma is recognised very highly worldwide so it gets our students admission to the best universities all over the world. Something we weren’t sure of when we started was, would our students want to go to Italian universities? That has become a much more popular route than we expected, and our students have been admitted to the top universities in Italy as well, like Bocconi and Politecnico di Torino.
TF: How is the school facing the new school year, post lockdown?
GOM: As we’ve all experienced with lockdown, online education was very difficult on so many levels: being in isolation, not having the usual human interactions and staring at screens all day. We have been planning for our safe reopening for months and, so far, we have been fortunate to not have had any issues. The most exciting thing for me is how happy the students are to be back. It’s a myth that the future of education is mainly online. It’s a great tool and we believe in it immensely, but it’s not the best way to learn. When we went into lockdown, we were already using online learning, so when schools closed we made an easy transition from the in-class experience to a completely online experience, and we managed to stick to a timetable for four months and finished the school year successfully. Our students didn’t miss anything in terms of content and courses, so there was no make up to do. We learned a lot from that, and we modified it constantly in terms of feedback from teachers and students. But we are ready if, in the worst-case scenario, another lockdown was to occur.
TF: Due to the travel restrictions, have you seen a drop in your enrolment from North America?
GOM: We know that Covid has devastated the international universities in Florence in terms of their enrolment, but in our case, enrolment has actually gone up. We seem to have had the opposite experience in that people looking at Italy are seeing that it is actually a good place to be. Notwithstanding the travel restrictions, students actually can come from the US. Americans can’t come as tourists even if they quarantine, but Americans coming to study can come and, of course with our virtual online experience, while they are in quarantine, they can actually attend class.
TF: What’s next for CSF? You’re opening a kindergarten and elementary school next September?
GOM: Yes, that’s right. We found the reaction to the Canadian curriculum was so positive that the logical thing to do was to open a kindergarten and elementary school with the Ontario curriculum but also provide Italian preparation for the grade 5 national exams for students wanting to go to Italian middle school. Having said that, we do have plans down the road to open a middle school in Florence.
Canadian School of Florence
International high school in Florence for 14- to 18-year-olds since 2017.
Canadian Ontario curriculum leading to the Ontario Secondary School Diploma.
The kindergarten and elementary school opening in San Domenico, Fiesole in September 2021: Canadian Ontario curriculum, Reggio Emilia, Jolly Phonics, scuola paritaria, Italian state exam preparation.
Open Day Launch: 24 October 2020
Via delle Fontanelle 2-4, Fiesole
055 0982744 – firstname.lastname@example.org