The demolition of Vankleek Hill’s high school

Copyright ImageVankleek Hill Collegiate Institute


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Vankleek Hill Collegiate Institute (ESVCI), the high school I occasionally attended, sometimes for days in a row, is being slowly and finally demolished.

When the school board finally announced Vankleek Hill would be getting a new school, to replace the one I attended, I think the general feeling in the village was relief. Not so much because of the state of VCI, but because the new school would be built on the same property as the old one. Just 200 feet back.

VCI Mark 3, still named VCI, was opened to students a few months ago. So far there haven’t been any major complaints. It is overpopulated, so four “portable” classrooms were installed, and there have been water leaks, but that’s what buckets are for.

The only real problem comes from the school board purposefully designing the school to hold fewer students than the current student population.

Their reasoning, at least publicly, was the projected population growth for this region was downwards, therefore why spend more money on more classes when they’ll just be empty in five years.

Behind closed doors, however, I believe the school board’s reasoning behind spending less money on a smaller school went something like “hey, if we build a smaller school we’ll spend less money”.

The only problem I have with the new school, other than a few reservations regarding the size, is the name. When I was a student the name of the high school was École secondaire Vankleek Hill Collegiate Institute, or ESVCI. Around 1987 the local school boards turned ESVCI into an English only high school, moving the French students to Hawkesbury.

So ESVCI became VCI. That still bothers me. When the new high school was announced there was a move to name it after Jack Potter, one of the better teachers at VCI, certainly one of the most popular, who had recently passed away.

I thought it was a decent idea. But naming it after the person who created Vankleek Hill, the person the town was named after, I thought would be a better idea. Maybe name the library after Jack. Or the smoking section.

VCI was actually named after the village of Vankleek Hill, so really it’s VKHCI. It’s interesting, at least to someone who lives here, that there is nothing in Vankleek Hill named after Simeon VanKleeck.

There’s a ‘Vankleek Hill Pharmacy’, a ‘VKH Convenience Store”, a few other things, but nothing named after Simeon or his wife, Cecilia Jaycox — which is equally weird as Cecilia owned and ran an inn, the first business in Vankleek Hill.

Right now the old VCI is becoming a hole in the landscape between the highway and the new school. The experiences of high school are one thing, about those I have good and not-so-good memories of, but I never really cared about the building. But the name should have some significance.

If we’re naming the school after the village, it seems natural to go one step further back in history and name it after the person who the village is named for.

Something like Simon Vankleek Collegiate Institute (SVCI), or a simpler Simon Vankleek High School, and maybe with a “l’école secondaire” tossed in for flair.


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About Gabriel

I’ve lived in more than fifty places. I've been paid to pick stones out of fields, take backstage photos of Britney Spears, and report on Internet privacy issues. My photos have been published in several newspapers, and a couple of magazines.
This entry was posted in Eastern Ontario, Hawkesbury, Reporting, Vankleek Hill, Vankleek Hill History, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The demolition of Vankleek Hill’s high school

  1. Martin Dessureault says:

    I was a student from this high school in the year of 82. Do you have links to pictures of the students at that time. It would be so cool to see my face when I was 14 years old, hahaha!!!
    Thank you!

  2. Hey Gabriel,

    Your points are well taken. When I started at VCI, I could only take history, geography and, of course, French, in French. When I left, you could take your entire programme in either language. To me that was one of the strong fundamentals of the school. Its a shame the two linguistic groups went their separate ways.

    That nothing in VKH is named after the town’s founder is kind of silly, isn’t it? In our rush to be ‘historic’, we have forgotten some of the basics.

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