Fall 2020

The Royal Oasis – Meeting Changing Student Needs

Recognizing the changing needs of the student population of 140 children, the school team at Royal Charles Elementary in St Hubert, Quebec felt it imperative to adopt a school-wide approach to support some of the students. A major component of the school’s annual success plan included improving student behaviour, diminishing out of class time and reducing the number of children sent to the office to receive a consequence. With the assistance of professionals from Riverside School Board’s complementary services department the “Royal Oasis” was born and has been in operation since September 2019.

The Royal Oasis provides a calm, structured space which is designed to offer a wide variety of activities, both intervention and prevention based to promote social-emotional learning. Through collaborative practice, the Royal Charles team joined forces with members of RSB’s complementary services team, not only to design the space, but also to identify and purchase intervention materials. In order to maximize the benefits for students visiting the space, school board professionals offered training on various research-based interventions and approaches that promote social-emotional learning.

The space serves as a tier of student support outside of the classroom in an intervention continuum,; designed to be utilized when interventions within the classroom do not suffice. Although the Royal Oasis is designed to offer guided support by a special education technician or attendant to the handicapped, it can also be used to offer respite to students who are feeling overwhelmed by the classroom environment and feel the need to remove themselves from the class for a short period. The space also serves as a lending “library” where teachers can borrow from a variety of intervention tools to gauge their effectiveness before making a classroom purchase.

Teachers play a key role in determining who needs this level of support and actively support those students in identifying optimal times to visit the Royal Oasis. With that said, self-regulation is promoted as students are encouraged to identify moments when time away from the busyness of classroom is necessary. Depending on their needs, the students that the room caters to does vary over time.

The path to the creation of the Royal Oasis was not obstacle free. The choice of space was the first obstacle to overcome. Royal Charles Elementary being housed in a small building, with no available free space, required a shift in the use of rooms used by the school’s daycare service. An office adjacent to the school’s main office – a space of ten square metres – was transformed. Mésure monies, the Ministry of Education’s funding model, which allows Quebec schools to identify and fund local, needs, provided most of the financing. This was supplemented with some funds from the school’s operating budget and by donations of materials by the school’s parent community. A second obstacle involved moving from a consequence-based approach of student management towards the increased use of preventative measures. To a very few adults the space and some of the materials on hand looked a little too much like fun. A fuller understanding of the purpose of the space, the lighting, how materials were to be used and a greater comprehension of the role of the attendant and technician took place over a period of months. 

Since its inception at the beginning of the school year, parent, student and school team response has been very positive. A growing number of students have become proactive and use the strategies that they were explicitly taught. The Royal Oasis uses an electronic logbook which tracks who has visited the room and the purpose of their visit. Far fewer students are removed from class as a consequence of inappropriate or disruptive classroom behaviour. Fewer students are seen at the office for a consequence. The number of student suspensions from school can be counted on one hand.

Plans for future development include refining the existing quiet spaces within the classrooms and offering academic support within the Royal Oasis. The school’s next major undertaking will be the development of interactive hallways and an understanding of how that resource can be used as part of the board supported practice of inclusion. 

AUTHOR BIOS:
James (Jim) Jordan B.Ed., M.A. is the principal of Royal Charles Elementary. He has taught at all levels and worked as an administrator for twenty years.

Jennifer McNeil, B.Ed., M.Ed. is a special education consultant with Riverside School Board who has taught at the elementary level and worked at the board level for ten years.