Valley Heights Secondary School has a lot to offer, and the school takes a proactive approach sharing that message with its elementary feeder schools through ‘A Day in the Valley.’
Grade 8 students from five feeder schools spend a school day at VHSS, south of Langton.
“It’s a typical day’s schedule,” said Leanne Buchanan, Head of Guidance at VHSS, who arranges transportation from Langton, Courtland, Port Rowan, Houghton and Walsh Public Schools – with one set of Grade 8s visiting each week over five weeks.
“They all get their own ‘Day at the Valley,'” said Buchanan, “so that they can see what it would be like to be a student here. An authentic version of what being in high school is.”
The students tour elective and mandatory Grade 9 classrooms like construction, music, language, science, all with hands on participation, accompanied by a VHSS student guide who is often a grad of their own school. The students make cell phone boxes in the woodworking shop, T-shirts in art, and try various instruments in music. They learn about extra curricular activities, they explore the library and they have lunch in the Hidden Valley Cafe, which features the school’s culinary classroom.
Students learn how to choose between different course levels, and they also learn their way around the school, giving them a general idea of the layout.
“That’s their biggest fear – always,” Buchanan smiled. “‘Will I get lost?’ ‘How will I find my way around?’ So on a day like this, they really become oriented with where the gym is, where the trade classes are, where the cafeteria is, where the office is, where the washrooms are… that’s all important, too, because that takes the worry out of their heads.
“They are generally really excited, they ask lots of questions which is great because we want to provide the information. We want them to be able to have the information to make a good choice for themselves.”
In Norfolk County Grade 8 students have choices.
“It’s a big decision for students and parents so the more information we can give them, the better they can make that decision. We have a lot to offer. We want to get that information out there to the public that we have all the pathways. Yes, we have shops. We have university programs, we have college programs, we have workplace programs, we have alternative programs. We have every pathway open to them that any school has.
“Our biggest feature, I think, is the fact that we are small and we offer that one-on-one attention. We are a small community school… every student is going to get that individualized attention.”
VHSS grads often say the best thing about Valley Heights is that ‘everybody knew everybody.’ All the teachers knew all the students, and if the students need anything, Buchanan said they always have someone to go to.
“Students get the extra help, they get the extra attention, and they get the extra caring adults in their life,” she said, stressing the latter point.
“We are small, but that is not a bad thing. That is a good thing. It’s because we are small that we can offer that unique focus on individualized attention for all the kids.”
Through social media, the VHSS reaches out to grads who share their stories – and grads contact the school for the opportunity – from lawyers to physicists, to musicians and pilots, and students who have gone into the trades, allowing the school to feature all types of grads.
“We want people to know that kids graduating out of Valley Heights are from all different pathways,” said Buchanan.