My beautiful little high school, Cartwright HS in Blackstock Ontario, is closing at the end of this year. And I am sad.
I’m not sure how attached most people are to their high school, but I am very attached to mine. High school was an amazing experience for me, and I spent some of the best years of my life there.
Good, good times.
For as long as I can remember, there have been rumours surrounding the school being closed. I remember hearing about it in Grade 9. But they were always that – just rumours. Until now. This process has been going on for at least a year, and there have been many meetings and decisions and appeals. But now it is final. Cartwright High School, affectionately dubbed “the little school with the big heart” is closing.
Here are some interesting facts about Cartwright High School:
- It is the smallest public high school in Ontario, and one of the smallest in North America.
- When I attended CHS, it had 150 students. It had 115 students enrolled in the 2011/12 school year, according to Wikipedia.
- My graduating class had 25 people in it, and that combined us OAC’s (Grade 13 before Ontario eliminated that) as well as a few Grade 12’s.
- When I attended, almost a quarter of the school was in the band (including myself – played the flute, holla!), and due to the dedication of our band director and music teacher Mr. B, the band won numerous awards. In fact, it won at least one award each year. We also took several trips, to Quebec City, Ottawa, Halifax, etc.
- Inside the school there are four classrooms, a library, teacher’s lounge, and the principal’s office. And there are about a million portables (okay maybe around eight) for the other classes.
- There is no gym, or auditorium, or cafeteria. There is a double portable which serves as all these things. Or sometimes we would use the gym at the local elementary school (which I also attended).
- CHS is across the road from a tractor dealer (at least I think that’s what it is. It is a giant lawn with tractors all over it.)
It really bothers me when I hear people mention that Cartwright students must not have the same opportunities as students at larger schools, because we didn’t have adequate resources or specialized classes. And there was recently a letter to the editor in the local paper from some dude saying just that.
And then there was this article, with this quote:
Board Chairman Joe Allin indicated the programs and resources at Cartwright are subpar. For example, when he attended the Robert McLaughlin Gallery for a show featuring Durham high schools in the fall, Cartwright was the only one that wasn’t represented.
“I find the library quite frankly an embarrassment,” he said, adding that a student graduating from Cartwright, and going to a large university’s library, would be lost.
The school also doesn’t have a gymnasium.
I know that the school is probably not the same as it once was due to the loss of OAC and several amazing teachers. However, the quality of your education has nothing to do with the size of your school, and Cartwright proves that. Or maybe the size of your school has everything to do with the quality of your education, and Cartwright proves that.
Sure we didn’t have a gym, or a cafeteria. Or classes like shop or home ec, or photography, or other fancy arts classes. Or a big library. Did I fantasize sometimes about attending a larger school? Of course. My grade had three guys in it. And I always wanted to go to big football games and cheer for my school. Our yearbooks were paperback and in black and white until I was in Grade 12. My student card in Grade 9 wasn’t even laminated. Did I mention we didn’t even have a GYM?
But I never regretted attending Cartwright for one second. And I have never felt that my high school education was subpar due to the size of my school. Our high school experience wasn’t like what you see in movies, true. But for me it was better.
Let me tell you a few things. Out of the 24 people who graduated alongside me, three quarters were on the honour roll. For basically our entire high school career. We were forced to take advanced classes (or university-type classes, whatever it is now in the Ontario curriculum), because we didn’t have the resources to also offer general or basic classes. Also, all of us went on to post secondary education. ALL of us.
Skipping class was very rare unless you were old enough to drive, because where would you go? There are two convenience stores in Blackstock, and that’s it. You think you’re going to skip class to hang out at the convenience store? I don’t think so. And pretending to ride the tractors across the street got old pretty fast. So until at least Grade 11, skipping was pretty much unheard of.
I was on the basketball team and I didn’t even have to try out.
Which was a good thing because I wouldn’t have made it. I sucked. Our whole team sucked. We lost every single game, by a LOT. And we definitely had the worst looking uniforms of any school we played against. But it was a TON of fun.
Bullying was pretty much unheard of, because you were basically friends with everyone. Grade 9’s were friends with Grade 12’s.
You knew every student, and probably their parents. I didn’t get nervous about public speaking or performing in plays, or making a general fool of myself because I knew everyone.
We were always encouraged to just be ourselves. I went to prom (or formal) every year from grades 9-12. Our whole school did. Every event we had was an entire school event.
I made the best friends of my life. We had all of our classes together, so we grew so close, and are still very close now. I see them all about once a month, and you will probably recognize them as they pop up on here regularly.
Cartwright High School isn’t just a high school, it is a community. It is almost like a big family. CHS shaped who I am. Going to that school gave me the confidence to just be me.
And I am sad that other students will not get the chance to experience this, but will now be forced to attend a much larger school with about 2,000 students. I had a choice of which school I wanted to go to when I was graduating Grade 8, the big one, or the small one. I chose the small and never regretted it. But now students will not get that choice.
There will be a celebration for Cartwright High School on Friday, May 24 at the school. Here is the info:
The Open House begins at 1:15 PM with a visit to students working in classrooms. Decade Rooms will be open from 3:00 until 9:00 PM with displays and memorabilia. This will provide an opportunity for reflection and shared memories. A light lunch will also be provided (sign me up for that).
Also, if you are a former Cartwright HS student reading this please note there will be slideshows set up in the decade rooms. If you would like to contribute your photos, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. And tell all your friends!
And if you are not a CHS alumni, tell me something about what made your high school great!