Ancaster, ON | Grades 9 - 12 | Shortlist
HDCH provides exceptional opportunities for students to get involved in areas they prefer which allows them to be an integral part of the community. Our son appreciates the teachers who offer opportunities to experiment and develop their own individual interests in the assignments that are assigned. The school is large enough to provide excellent instruction across a variety of interests, and there is a large pool of students to find others with similar interests to develop lasting friendships. Perhaps there could be additional courses offered to further develop non-academic students, but that can be overwhelming as well. With the current COVID experience, it is challenging to connect authentically with others, however, the school is making the best of it with opportunities for students to be engaged and still connected to classes and social events.
With the COVID restrictions, the administration had to communicate frequently and concisely with parents and students to keep them apprised of the constantly changing situation. The weekly newsletters that are published provide insight into weekly activities and highlight staff. The leadership is involved in the student communications on the Edsby pages which shows engagement and ability to connect on the student's level. The administration will tackle issues and communicates firmly and clearly with students, outlining consequences if rules are not followed.
There were few extracurricular activities that were permitted due to the pandemic. However, the school and student council made a concerted effort to engage students as much as they possibly could with a variety of engaging tournaments and challenges suitable for the current environment. The challenges ranged from bocce ball and beanbag toss to talent contests, which allowed many students to participate at their convenience and comfort level.
The school is on a large campus which provides opportunities for a variety of initiatives such as baseball, soccer, beach volleyball, lacrosse, disc golf, etc. The surrounding community is growing, and coming closer, allowing for more engagement with the community, and opportunities for students to go off-campus, should they wish to during lunch hour for lunch or a chance for a walk.
Of the experience we've had thus far, teachers are passionate and dedicated to the subjects that they teach. This translates into better assignments that students are asked to complete and keeping students more engaged. The school is of a reasonable size that allows for teachers from a diverse faculty in a broad range of subject matter. Teachers communicate via Edsby (online platform) frequently in core subjects, which provides consistent feedback for students, although it occasionally seems distant. The reality of the pandemic is not helpful when it comes to providing coursework that is appropriate given the level the students are at, but when in class, students are able to be reasonably challenged, but more importantly, seek the support that they may require in a one-on-one setting. It is obvious that the faculty enjoys their work, the students, and providing a Christ-centered education.
The academics at HDCH are progressive and current, allowing students to flourish in future endeavors. The project-based learning is good (although as a university instructor, I don't always enjoy the inconsistent results of project-based learning). However, students are certainly on par with peers in post-secondary education. For students that aren't made to pursue post-secondary education, there are sufficient offerings to engage them as well, which is a blessing! There are also course offerings for 'life skills' including food and nutrition and civics/careers, which expands students' general knowledge and ability to engage in the world around them. The culture may be one more of belonging, so there are many students who are able to find their place within the school, for which the downfall is - it's not purely academic, nor purely life skills.
The student body is welcoming and encouraging. There is diversity among students, which is beneficial for belonging and acceptance. Being a private school, the culture is one of the upper class which can be a detractor for some, however the Christian backdrop to the school, academics, faculty also extends to students where there is acceptance. Students tend to get along as far as we can discern, although there is a broad catchment area of students, which includes students from a suburban upbringing as well as from more rural and farm country. This diversity adds to experiences and friendships students are able to foster - and expands their exposure to other cultures and lifestyles. There is a vibrant student council organization that helps to engage students in a variety of opportunities, as well as many different groups and clubs that students can participate in.
Overall, school life is enjoyable at HDCH. Students are encouraged to participate in school life, while it isn't necessarily mandatory. The broad catchment area for students can be challenging for students to develop friendships beyond their local borders, but it does provide an opportunity for diverse and well-rounded friendships to be established. For students who live farther away, there is bussing that is provided, but for students who do want to participate, it can mean lots of commuting required for parents. There are sufficient groups and activities for students to participate in to fuel their interests (currently, an NHL Stanley Cup draft being done that is is the talk of our house), and any passions students may want to consider to be future-ready .
The broader community of HDCH is a group of like-minded parents, desiring Christian education for their children. It's reassuring to be a part of the community as a parent, and also to see the engagement from the broader community of parents who may have children who graduated. When membership meetings are held, there is always very good attendance, which indicates parental involvement. Perhaps the school community could offer more opportunities to be involved, although that can be difficult to commit to or schedule if insufficient parental volunteers are found. With the broad catchment area, the connections for parents can be very geographically diverse, which is both a blessing for connections and a challenge for time management if you have commitments in both your home community and at the school.
The admission process for HDCH is very seamless. We were coming from a local Christian grade school which made the process even easier. During grade 8, our child was invited to spend a day at HDCH which allowed them to become slightly familiar with the school building layout and offerings. It was exciting for prospective students to see the faculty and realize that they fit in and there were sports, extracurricular events, and groups to look forward to! For anyone interested, go and visit the school - they are welcoming and are happy to answer any questions you might have. The campus is beautiful, and the school building is well kept. There are events that you are able to attend to provide you an opportunity to see the campus, establish an understanding of the activities offered and calibre of education.
The student services department is very well staffed and allows for many opportunities for students to be supported. Staff are welcoming and engaged in school life so they are well known to students. This also allows students to be open and honest during what can be an awkward and challenging time of life. The staff is well trained and progressive in their We haven't yet had to engage the university placement tools, however, in choosing courses on an annual basis, the school and counsellors have been prompt, thorough and accurate as they engage students to chart their academic path. The school and counsellors communicate with students, and also with parents as these decisions are being made to ensure that parents are as involved as they need to / may wish to be with their child's education and future choices.