School board announces expansion of alternative education within county

An overhead view of a person working on a graphic on a laptop sitting on a wood table.
E-learning opportunities will be expanding among other initiatives in a new alternative learning plan from the Upper Grand District School Board. Photo by Canva.
Riley Gillespie-Wilson - CICW - FergusON | 15-12-2023
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A new type of education will soon be in Wellington and Dufferin County as well as Guelph.

Following approval at a board meeting earlier in the week, the Upper Grand District School Board will be establishing an alternative education high school at College Heights Secondary School (CHSS) in Guelph. Three alternative education learning centres will also be coined in Guelph as well as Dufferin and Wellington Counties.

UGDSB's Superintendent of Education Carlo Zen told CICW the idea includes larger scale implementation of unique education styles.

"Those could be anything from specialized bundle programs to different combinations of blended learning to all-year schooling, E-learning, supervised alternative learning. Some of these things exist currently within our school board," Zen said.

"What we're looking to do is really put them all together in a comprehensive sort of way," he added.

While the project hasn’t officially been launched at CHSS to date, Zen says, there have been opportunities within tech and horticulture classes among others at that school.

With the provincial kick-off of de-streaming in high schools in 2021, Zen added grade nine classes were rather stagnant across many schools. He went on to stress the importance of this idea within rural areas of Wellington County.

"If a student lives in the Mount Forest area, the Wellington Heights area, they can have access to the same programs and opportunities," Zen explained.

"So, one of the things we've talked a lot about is do we have an ability to move students around if they have to attend things in person, those things have been struggles as you get outside of our urban centres," he added.

A focus, Zen says, will be deciding locations for the learning centres and what to implement across them, as well as CHSS. In the next six months or so, Zen, who will be soon be retiring, says work will be done to ensure the success of the program at local schools.

"We'll be starting to flush out some of those ideas that can happen in all the areas; in Dufferin and Wellington County and Guelph. We definitely have some ideas we've brainstormed over the last 18 months, now it's just a matter of putting the rubber to the road on them," Zen said.

Robotics programs were discussed as an area that can expand throughout the project.

The board says special education classes at College Heights such as LRC10 will not be changed at this point. The transition will be phased in over the next several years.

Listen to the CICW story below: