Grade 8 students get glimpse at what Valley Heights has to offer
Valley Heights Secondary School is playing host to prospective students throughout the month of November. Daniel Funk of Walsh Public School takes part in an art demonstration at VHSS on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. JACOB ROBINSON/Simcoe Reformer
Some people think that a small high school offers fewer choices for students.
The staff at Valley Heights Secondary is spending November disproving that theory.
“The staff here does an amazing job of offering programming,” VHSS principal Alison High said during the third of five scheduled Grade 8 days at the school this month. “For a small school there are still a lot of what we'll call 'bell and whistle' courses like photography and music theatre that you can't get at every school, even some big schools ... the reality is there isn't a program that you would want to get into at post-secondary that you can't get here.”
Students from many area feeder schools such as Port Rowan Public and Sacred Heart have been attending the campus on Wednesdays this month, even a few from further away like St. Frances school in Delhi. They're invited to take part in things like science, art and manufacturing projects in addition to hearing the advantages that come with having a low student-to-teacher ratio.
“In terms of feedback that we get from both kids and parents, that is right up there,” said High. “Some of them are surprised that we have the programming that we do and that's awesome, but that's probably the biggest piece of feedback we get is that (the school) feels nice – they feel welcome, they feel wanted, they feel cared for, they feel like people are looking out for them. For a lot of people, myself included, that's an important piece, especially in that transition from Grade 8 to Grade 9 where so many things are new.”
VHSS has placed a larger emphasis on social media interaction this year. They've been profiling past grads and many of them speak to the close-knit nature of the students, teachers, and staff.
“They look back and go 'that's what I loved about my high school',” said Leanne Buchanan, the VHSS head of student services.
“Kids do well in school when they make relationships and I think that's our trump card. Kids make relationships here with their peers and with their teachers so well because of our community feel and if they have relationships they're going to be successful.”
Just after taking part in a hands-on art demonstration where kids could design their own VHSS inspired T-shirt, soon-to-be Walsh Public School grad Rebecca Dyck said she felt at home.
“(Everyone is) very friendly,” she said. “It's been a lot of fun.”
High hopes that by bringing students to VHSS they'll keep their options open when choosing a destination.
“What I want people in our community to do is at the very least give this a chance,” she said. “Don't write it off because of what the perception is of what's available here because there's a lot more to it than they might know. It's a very community-oriented, family-oriented place.”