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As enrollment declines, changes are coming to College Heights

But the school board says there are definitely no plans to close the school
College Heights High School.

Changes are coming to College Heights Secondary School, but what those changes are is yet to be determined by the Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB). 

“I want to make this clear. By no means are we closing the schools; it's not something we’re considering. It’s not something that’s allowed currently. So that facility would continue to exist as a school,” said UGDSB superintendent of education Carlo Zen.

College Heights opened in 1968. At its peak, in 2010, enrolment was 604 students. This year it has 367 students.

When asked about the future of College Heights, Zen had some questions of his own.

“How can we leverage out so many of the great things College Heights has done over the years in terms of alternative education? How can we perhaps replicate that and serve all of our areas of the school board?” asked Zen.

College Heights provides alternative education for students Grades 9 through 12 with the courses they need to graduate. What makes it different are its dual credit programs called Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program and Specialist High Skills Major. College Heights offers a variety of specialized technology courses.

The plan is for an alternative approach to education to continue in Guelph and in two additional centres servicing Wellington County and Dufferin County.

College Heights is a potential location for the Guelph alternative education centre, said Zen.

The public school board is calling this change UGDSB alternative education centres. At the centres students can learn in-person, online, or through blended learning.

A public consultation process to include staff, students, parents and community members will start in April. After June a report will be made and released in either the late summer or early fall. Further decisions about the future of College Heights, the three alternative education centres and the start date will follow the report.

The context for these changes comes from a decrease in enrolment at College Heights and the de-streaming of Grade 9, said in a UGDSB policy and priorities committee report

Grade 9 has been de-streamed in secondary schools across Ontario.

Enrolment has declined each year since the high in 2010, said Heather Loney, UGDSB spokesperson, in an email.

“It’s hard to really know how the enrolment would play out because it would depend on the kinds of programs being offered and what percentage of time students would be away from their home schools,” said Zen, when asked if enrolment will be spread thin between three alternative education centres.

Previously, Grade 9 subjects like English, French, geography, math, and science were streamed. Students could choose academic, applied, or locally developed in these subjects. Academic sets up a pathway to post-secondary, whereas applied or locally developed would be inline with a pathway to college. 

Now, all students are enrolled in a single course code scrapping academic and applied. Locally developed courses are still offered.

Students who were in lower streams like applied and locally developed in early secondary school had negative long-term impacts to their education, said an UGDSB report.

“The data also shows that the students most likely to be streamed into this course type are students who are Indigenous, Black, from low-income households and/or have disabilities or other special education needs,” said Zen in his presentation at a recent policy and priorities committee meeting.

“Students in the applied and locally developed course streams are limited in the courses they can take in later grades which in turn limits their access to post-secondary pathways,” Zen said. 

Grade 9 was de-streamed in the UGDSB at the beginning of the 2021 school year. Locally developed courses are still available and “this has contributed to a steady decrease in enrolment at CHSS during this time. As a result, more and more students have chosen to attend their home schools,” said in the report. 

With the opening of a new secondary school in Guelph’s south end in the next couple of years, further impacts to enrolment at College Heights is expected, the report said.

Students in Grades 11, 12 and 12 plus will be served at the alternative education centres since Grade 9 is de-streamed and it looks like Grade 10 will be de-streamed too, although the board hasn't heard anything from the Ministry of Education on this yet, said Zen, in the meeting.

Students enrolled at College Heights in September 2022 and prior will continue through the high school to graduate. 

Grade 9 students will be enrolled for the upcoming 2023-2024 school year. 


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Santana Bellantoni

About the Author: Santana Bellantoni

Santana Bellantoni was born and raised in Canada’s capital, Ottawa. As a general assignment reporter for Guelph Today she is looking to discover the communities, citizens and quirks that make Guelph a vibrant city.
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