What Rideau HS can be (an achievable vision)

On February 16, 2017, Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) trustees voted 7 to 5 in Committee of the Whole to close Rideau High School and redirect students in its catchment to Gloucester High School as of next September. A final vote will be held during the Board meeting on March 7, 2017.

You can make your views known about the recommendation by e-mailing the trustees before March 7.

I have said before in this space that I believe that it is in the best interests of students and the community to keep Rideau HS open, What follows is a vision of what can happen at Rideau if at least five other trustees join me in voting to keep it open on March 7.

March 2017 to June 2017
Starting from an option developed by Trustee Shawn Menard, OCDSB staff and the community focus on increasing enrolment at Rideau HS through an array of measures:

  • introduce French Immersion into Rideau HS, the only OCDSB high school not to offer this option;
  • bring the Urban Aboriginal HS to Rideau HS to take advantage of location, the opportunity for students to transition from one program to the other and the strong FNMI culture and understanding already growing at Rideau;
  • the Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre's Youth Strategy committee connects with the administration at Rideau to work out how to support each other in the common goal of supporting at risk students;
  • the Vanier, Manor Park and Overbrook Community Associations and the school and District staff start a working group to identify why students and/or parents in some areas of Rideau's catchment are not choosing Rideau HS and what can be done to address those concerns.
    Examples of what can be done include:
    • hold sporting/arts/multicultural events at Rideau for the elementary schools feeding into Rideau;
    • introduce more indigenous programming in conjunction with the FNMI community and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission;
    • explore indigenous, multicultural and social justice equivalents of Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) Programs (open to students from other schools);
    • engage with parents at Manor Park, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary and R.E. Wilson Public Schools to understand what those parents are expecting in a high school;
    • fund a coordinators staff position for outreach and communications, as is done for specialty programs like the Arts and International Baccaulaureate;
    • pursue student support initiatives such as Students Will All Graduate (SWAG) and/or Pathways to Education.

2017-18 school year

  • Rideau HS hosts Inuit games. Manor Park, Queen Elizabeth, R.E. Wilson, Rockcliffe Park and Queen Mary students participate. It's so successful other schools ask to be included next year. District staff put together physical activity curriculum highlighting Inuit games in preparation for this event to be used by any school in the board;.
  • The board recognizes that Rideau HS will have a specialty focus on indigenous and multicultural studies;
  • The board undertakes anti-racism pilot initiatives at Rideau;
  • Ongoing focus groups with parents and community indicate that supports and enhancements for the grade 7&8 school in the area are needed to retain students at that level.

2021-22 school year

Rideau HS enrolment has levelled off at 700 to 750, which meets the needs of students, especially when another 50 to 75 students come for a semester to take the specialty FNMI and social justice courses offered at Rideau. Rideau is recognized provincially and internationally for advancing the success of FNMI, newcomer and low income students. It is also studied for how it meets the challenge of serving the lowest income neighbourhood and the highest income neighbourhood.

Without Rideau HS large urban area without a high school

One of the phrases that is used often in the discussion is equity of access. How it is important that students can access courses that students in other schools may have. That relates to low enrolment and a school not being able offer as many courses. I will address that in another article Future Growth Rockcliffe Airforce Base and Light Rail Development. This map shows how the Vanier, Overbrook, Manor Park area will be penalized in equity of access from a geographic point of view. As you can see from the map, to the east of Rideau HS catchment there are two OCDSB schools, Gloucester and Colonel By, and one Catholic HS. This in a geographical area smaller than Rideau HS catchment (in purple)

Another thing to note from this map is that Rideau HS is closer to Gloucester HS than most of where the students live. So although Rideau may be 6km distance from Gloucester HS for students it can be as much as 10km from home.


Rideau HS only high school in large area of city

Rideau HS and Community Supports

One of the main factors for my advocacy to keep Rideau HS open is the community supports within walking distance of the high school. The map below only shows some. I'll try to do another one showing where the other supports are located.

Rideau High School community supports

OrKidstra Reaching for our potential: expansion to Vanier

After many months of planning, OrKidstra held its first classes for 50 very excited students in Rideau High School, in the under-served area of Vanier, on October 3rd, 2016. It was a great first day that included an impromptu performance for the kids and parents by OrKidstra teachers!

With your continued support, OrKidstra will continue bring the transformational power of music to under-served children and youth in our community and help them to reach their potential! Find out more about our programs here.

If not Rideau as community school then...

Neighbourhoods: A big factor for me is that many in the Rideau HS catchment area don't see Gloucester HS as their community school. One participant at the January 11 meeting, for example, noted that although her family consider Rideau their community school, if it closes then they would see Lisgar CI as the next community school. She noted that they live on the south side of Beechwood in Vanier but if they lived across the street in New Edinburgh they would be directed to Lisgar CI.

To partially address this neighbourhood issue, I plan to bring forward 3 amendments to the redirection of students in the Rideau catchment incase trustees vote to close Rideau:

  • Starting in the school year 2017-18, grade nine students residing in the York Street Public School grade 7 to 8 English attendance boundary east of the Rideau River, and south of Beechwood and Hemlock be directed to Lisgar CI (see map)
  • Starting in the school year 2017-18, grade nine students residing in the Manor Park English attendance boundary be directed to Lisgar CI
  • Starting in the school year 2017-18, Lisgar will accept grade nine students to the Gifted Congregated program if Lisgar CI is the closest high school offering that program to where the student resides. (this will create space for students from the above areas)

Even with the above amendments, closing Rideau HS will fragment what I believe is the natural, vibrant and diverse community of Vanier, Overbrook, Rockcliffe, Manor Park, Forbes, Lindenlea and New Edinburgh.
Rideau HS, I believe, needs to remain open to foster this community!

Transit-oriented development (TOD) in Rideau catchment

"Transit-oriented development (TOD) studies are being done for areas surrounding three of the 13 stations along the first phase of the transit project, which is scheduled to begin operating in 2018. Chris Brouwer, a senior planner with the City of Ottawa, said the goal is to increase density within 600-metre perimeters of these LTR stations with a mix of residential, office and retail development. “Really it’s about getting cyclists and pedestrians to the stations effectively and trying to plan for a complete community,” Brouwer said. Study looks at east end stations The three stations being looked at are all east of Ottawa’s downtown core."

These are all within the Rideau HS catchment.

"Brouwer said market demand will ultimately determine the proportional mix between residential, office and retail space surrounding these transit stations subject to the city’s TOD studies. “In a perfect world, we’d have mixed use,” he said. “And that can happen both in a single building or in a series of stand-alone buildings.” Brouwer said for each of these areas, the city is looking at development that would accommodate about 40,000 residents and employees combined. That’s the long-term objective, and the interim goal is for about 16,000 by 2031 compared to current levels of around 6,000."

Above from the article Ottawa studies east end transit stations on future LRT line

Also see Future Growth Rockcliffe Airforce Base and Light Rail Development

Key Consultation Timeline for Eastern Secondary Review

  • November 20: Thoughtexchange Star Phase Closes
  • December 6, Time 7-9 pm, Ottawa Technical SS: Accommodation Review Committee Meeting
  • January 11, 7-9 pm Gloucester HS: Second Public Meeting for Eastern Area Review
  • January 27: Final staff report is published
  • February 15: Board of Trustees Committee of the Whole (COW) - Hear delegations form the public - Consider final staff report for Eastern Secondary Area
  • March 7: Board Meeting - final decision for Eastern Secondary Area

There may be additional Advisory Committee meeting(s)

How to register for a delegation. Delegations can be given at any COW or Board Meeting

French Immersion at Rideau HS


  • To respond to District staff’s suggestion that French Immersion is not viable at Rideau HS because it did not succeed there in the past

Past experience

  • In the late 1990s, the Rideau HS School Council advocated to have French Immersion introduced at Rideau to address the number of students in the Rideau catchment going to other schools for French Immersion.
  • In 2000, French Immersion was introduced at Rideau HS.
  • In 2005, French Immersion was discontinued due to lack of students.
    • Report # 05-040 to Education Committee Re: The French Immersion Program at Rideau High School dated Feb. 21, 2005 stated: “Last year, Queen Elizabeth Public School had a class of twenty-five Grade 8 French Immersion students. Two of these students applied to come to Rideau High School and the rest applied for transfers elsewhere within the district or they applied to the OCCSB. There were two possible Immersion students from Henry Munro, but only one of those students came to Rideau High School. This year there is a total of 17 students in the entire French Immersion Program from Grade 9 through 12. Of those 17 students, only 2 are in grade 9.”
  • As the quote demonstrates, the OCDSB had a much laxer transfer policy at the time. For the most part, students who applied for transfers got them. Students from the Rideau catchment were able to go to Lisgar for Extended French and to stay there even if they dropped the program.
  • In keeping with policies supporting more school choice, the Board did nothing to encourage the success of French Immersion at Rideau and did not provide funding for teacher overlays to help enable the Immersion program to take hold and grow.

Current potential

  • Using the failure of French Immersion a decade ago as a rationale for saying it would fail again at Rideau is at best disingenuous. Not only is the transfer policy different now, but the uptake of French Immersion has increased Board-wide and, with the exception of Rideau, every high school now offers both French Immersion and Extended French to their catchments.
  • In my opinion, Rideau catchment students who currently stay in the OCDSB and go to Gloucester for French Immersion would be as comfortable going to Rideau HS.
  • At the same time, there is a real opportunity to increase retention of students in the Rideau catchment area if targeted and sustained efforts to engage parents and feeder schools take place. Past efforts have been sporadic and inconsistent in my view.
  • As an aside, I question the assumption that the number of French Immersion students going to Gloucester, their current FI designated school, is an indication that Gloucester is a preferred choice for Rideau catchment students. They may simply be accepting the directions provided by staff.

Chris Ellis

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