Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Grade 7/8 trip to Owen Sound HIGH SCHOOL!?!

I was that dorky parent today: I went with my daughters on their class trip to check out the public high school in Owen Sound that offers a French Immersion program. I did not go on the bus, as I wanted to participate in the tour only, not the cafeteria lunch and rock-climbing afternoon. LOL  But I was there, in full parent-asking-questions-embarrassment bloom. :-)

I was a bit surprised that I was the only parent joining the trip (weren't we all there at Kindergarten? Funny how we trail off as we go, I used to volunteer so much more than I do now)... Scott suggested that perhaps the other parents all have better stuff to do than follow their kids around. HA HA  I am thinking more along the lines that I may not be here to help the girls choose their university, so I'll be damned if I'm going to miss the high school decision.

As I followed the yellow tuna can on wheels to Owen Sound, through the back windows I watched my kids and their friends (most of whom were here on Friday night) goofing around on the bus, and I reminisced about how small they all were when I took them to SVE to scope out the teacher and see what the world held for them at age four. I was working from home at the time so I was quite convinced that I would home-school for kindergarten at least, but I begrudgingly forced myself to check out the school and keep an open mind. 

I fell in love with Mrs. Pearson instantly and knew that my precious babies would be in good hands. Senior kindergarten brought Mme. Tremblay and the start of Claire and Cassie' French Immersion (FI) career, and though there were bumpy days we passed our SVE days with flying colours and made the leap to MCS.  Eight years later and I'm on my way to Owen Sound to check out a HIGH SCHOOL (gulp!) that is soliciting my childrens' interest in attendance there. And I'm forcing myself to keep an open mind.

I didn't even know where West Hill Secondary School was, so phew now I know, that's one thing off my list. Doesn't seem too bad, I'd know how to get there if they forgot their lunches or needed help getting their project home from school or got soaked pants getting to school in bad weather *insert laughing peanut gallery here, Geez MOM!!*  Now West Hill and St. Marys are on an even keel for me, I know where they are in relation to GBSS (our high school here in town, for you non-Meafordites). 

Let me explain the dilemma:  Georgian Bay Secondary School  is our local high school, popular for its Music program, Drama, and the Pursuits program, all of which are right up Claire and Cassie's alley.  It's right in town, saves two hours daily on bus, they are close to home and will have more time for extra-curricular activities and after-school jobs in town, and just plain falls into my desire to keep things local. But they do not have a FI program. There is core french there, but the girls' certificate of bilingualism past grade eight would not come should they attend GBSS.

Just to note, I am not a FI fanatic, I am grateful that we have the option to grade eight in Meaford, pieced together between the two public schools - enrollment dwindles every year so we're lucky it's even still alive.  There are many benefits for children to be immersed in a second language at a young age, I have learned a lot about it over the years.  But in my opinion they have had the most important years, and I am content to give up FI after grade eight if it means a local secondary school education with the benefits of staying in our beautiful town every day. They can always be tutored or pursue French later in life if they wish, or maybe spend an exchange year in France or something?

In order to pursue FI education in this area after grade eight, there are a couple of options.  St. Mary's in Owen Sound, with the Catholic board.  This would not be my preference. I attended a Catholic school once.  Like literally, for one day!  I was raised Catholic, nothing against it, just not my preference for my kids' high school.  Then there is West Hill Secondary School, which impressed me on the tour today.

We were toured around various hallways and classrooms, with high school students guiding the young visitors all dressed in complimentary t-shirts given to them upon our arrival. "West is Best! - Class of 2020" they said on them. rah rah sis boom bah

We were given presentations in the Drama classroom for Music and Drama, both students and teachers were amusing and engaging, providing a little impromptu drama performance and a musical interlude. Then we saw the computer lab (complete with 3D printers in action!) and I was just buzzing with excitement over how I could help the girls' with their homework in that one - this teacher was speaking my language!! Business course overview was so exciting I wanted to enroll in the class - heck I could teach it! (if only for that teaching degree to be in my back pocket - maybe I should have listened to my Stepdad all these years LOL) 

We had a tour of the photography, electrical, wood, and metal shops, and were given great visual presentations of how the business/computer technology classes and the manufacturing hands-on classes were intertwined.  Man this stuff wasn't nearly so exciting when I was in high school!  Computer programming in 1992 was DOS-based Boredom 101.  We saw the hair dressing/aesthetics classroom as well. Really.

Had a complete question and answer period in the gym about the sports programs at West Hill as well, and I am pleased to report they have a mountain-biking club that occasionally goes to Blue Mountain for races etc.  West Hill students also have a class option which gives them membership to the new Y in Owen Sound, Cassie literally sputtered when the tour guide assured her it's "only a 10 minute RUN from here to the Y."  hehe!

At that point I left my babies in the cafeteria, kissing their cheeks that they were not too embarrassed to turn to me as I was leaving (either their nerves were settled down from the initial overwhelming arrival at the big-kid school, or they were just relieved that I was leaving?) and I can now ponder what their reactions might be to all of what they saw and heard today.  

I'm glad I kept an open mind.. I am actually considering it wouldn't be so bad for them to go to Owen Sound for school?  I am hoping we will get a similar tour of GBSS in the near future (maybe next year we will go to the GBSS day instead of a repeat to West Hill so that we can make an informed decision when the time comes).

One major drawback for West Hill is the lack of bussing back to Meaford for extra-curricular activities.  St. Mary's offers a bus for those later afternoons, why can't the Catholic and Public school boards team up on that one and work together for the out of town kids - at the end of the day, the funding comes from the same place, non?  ;-)

Productive morning anyway, I am happy I went.  I was interested in seeing what my kids will be up to in two short years, whether it ends up being here or in the big city, but I was also flooded with many great high school memories.  I loved (most of) high school.. though kids these days have better fashion options - we didn't have yoga pants and Uggs back then - I wore my Northern Reflections track pants and fuzzy slippers to my classes. True story.  :-)  And I scored 90's in most of my OAC's, too bad for stupid chemistry, that's where I lost my kinesiology career. But I digress...

It is fantastic that we have a choice of where they will go, I had a great high school but Cass and Claire get the privilege of choosing theirs.  It will be a fun and interesting journey no doubt, and it will shape their futures more than they will realize until they are closer to my age.  I will end with my favourite quote from a dramatic scene in one of my favourite movies:  where a husband tells his grieving wife that "high school is over babe..."  She responds animatedly "high school is NEVER over!" 


  1. I would be curious to know how things turned out. Which school etc... I am a mother struggling with the same dilemma, no FI in our area anymore and the drive is so long. Thanks for your story.

    1. Thanks, yes I agree it is a struggle. Here we are a year later and still no closer to a decision. We want to continue with FI but yes the drive is so long. I would be completely supportive of the girls staying in town for GBSS but their limited course offerings worry me. Not only limited in FI but in other opportunities as well that the larger schools offer. If you are in the Owen Sound area there are Grade 8 Open House days at West Hill this week: Wed. Nov 4 Gr. 8 Orientation day (though due to the strike/work to rule I believe the students are not being bussed from Meaford to this?) and Thursday evening Nov. 5 6:30-8 pm.