Open Doors – St. Charles College



St. Charles College reduces suspensions from 300 to 10 in just two years

By Stephanie Zakhem

Based in Sudbury, St. Charles College serves students in the Catholic faith-based community, offering both regular and French Immersion programs.

In 2015, St. Charles developed a program for disengaged students, called Open Doors. It was created with the intention to reduce suspension rates at the school. Staff at St. Charles “believed that sending students home was not the answer and rather was simply rewarding them,” said Principal Patty Mardero, adding that parents of the students wholeheartedly agreed with that.

Open Doors is a highly engaging and interactive program. Each participating student is behind in credits, so the goal is to help them complete these. Every Open Doors class always has a teacher, as well as an Educational Assistant present in the room; there is also a wall with chalkboard paint that lists each student’s name with the credits they are currently working on. “Not all students need to be in the program for four periods per day, so some of these students are then integrated into other classes, such as woodworking, architecture, etc,” says Mardero.

Throughout the day, students may work on various assignments that are then marked in class by their teacher. Other times, students may go to the gym together, participate in yoga classes, visit an art gallery or work on special projects to gain hours towards art, religion, civics, careers and physical education credits. “There are currently 30 students in the program, but they don’t always attend regularly, so on any given day there can be about 15 to 20 in the class,” Mardero explains.

The Open Doors program has also recently added a shirt print-press room, where students take orders, fill them and complete invoices to gain co-op hours. “Students seem happy and enthusiastic knowing that they are running their own business,” says Mardero, adding that this gives them an opportunity to learn how to manage a project from start to finish.

St. Charles was once a school with more than 300 suspensions per year. Since the introduction of Open Doors, the suspension rate has been reduced to less than 10 suspensions per year. Congratulations to both staff and students at the school for their collective hard work that has led to such incredible results!

Photos courtesy of and used with permission from St. Charles College.