St. Mike’s deserves more classrooms
The urban high school I attended didn’t even let students walk to the Quizno’s across the street during lunch, let alone walk to the municipal wharf to learn how to catch fish beneath the ice like St. Michael’s High School students did in late February.
For a small, rural high school, St. Mike’s in Low delivers a stellar experience to students.
Loyal readers may have noticed that the front pages of the past two issues have been graced with photos from St. Mike’s.
St. Mike’s offers small class sizes and activities throughout the year that are uniquely “Low.” These include ice fishing field trips, a partnership between the carpentry class and a local business, a yearly river cleanup, camping trips, and more.
I recognize how great St. Mike’s is, even if the Ministère de l’Éducation du Québec doesn’t seem to. In 2021 the WQSB requested five more classrooms for St. Mike’s, but the province denied the request, saying there was a “real need” for the expansion but it wasn’t a high priority.
Another piece of the puzzle that makes St. Mike’s such a great school is the story of how it remains open.
Over the decades, the school has come to the brink of closure several times due to low enrollment. Each time the community of Low rallied together – as it has done numerous times before for different causes – and made sure the school remained a fixture of the village.
Student population is on the rise now and the days of looming closure are behind the school. Less than 100 students attended St. Mike’s during the 2016/17 school year; there were 100 students the next year; 127 students in 2018/19; and now there are around 180, according to WQSB information.
Principal Debbie Picard may be part of the secret to St. Mike’s success, but she’s too modest to ever admit that. When she took the reins eight years ago, only 64 students attended. Each class has had a 100 per cent graduation rate, with about 80 to 85 per cent of graduating students going on to CÉGEP or otherwise to the Western Quebec School Board career centre in Aylmer or Algonquin College. The graduation rate across the school board is 72.5 per cent. She’s also the principal for Queen Elizabeth Elementary School in Kazabazua, where the student population is growing too. Each time I visit St. Mike’s, Picard is there in the hallway outside her office chatting with or saying “Hi” to students, despite juggling her duties at both schools. She loves her school and students; her beaming smile is all the evidence I need for that. My principal only knew my name because of how often I ended up in his office.
St. Mike’s is a growing school with a need to expand so it can build on its success. It deserves the classrooms and provincial support to do that.