Staff Login 905-991-1132 1640 Garrison Rd Fort Erie, ON L2A 5M4

New High School a Community ‘Showcase’

by Matthew Vandervoet | Oct 26, 2017
Community Showcase
GFESS principal Fred Louws introduces the Gryphon mascot, who will be named by students and the community, at the opening ceremony for the high school . Kris Dube/Special to the Times

Adam Woehl has been enrolled at the new high school in Fort Erie for just a couple of months but he already knows he and his classmates are on the right track.

On Wednesday morning, the Grade 9 student was one of the Gryphons invited to join a number of dignitaries on the stage of the new arts theatre that is part of the Greater Fort Erie Secondary School for an opening ceremony to talk about their time so far at the $30-million facility that sounded its first bell in September.

“With all the extraordinary opportunities here at GFESS, we have a greater chance of succeeding and fulfilling our dreams,” said Woehl, referring to automotive, cosmetology and culinary programs available at the Garrison Road school, along with many other unique options and assets, such as a state-of-the-art football and track field.

“We are so privileged to have these resources to further our academic and extracurricular activities,” he said.

Hannah Walpole, a Grade 11 student, says the school has created a new form of unity, wiping away the rivalry between the Fort Erie Secondary School Falcons and Ridgeway-Crystal Beach High School Blue Devils.

“No longer are we split – but now together as one,” she said.

GFESS is an amalgamation of the Fort Erie and Crystal Beach students, with those two high schools closing last year after serving the community for almost 100 years.

Warren Hoshizaki, director of education for the District School Board of Niagara, said the new high school is a place all of Fort Erie can appreciate.

“It’s truly a showcase building in this community,” he said.

Liberal MPP Jim Bradley, who represents the St. Catharines riding, attended Wednesday morning’s event on behalf of the Ontario Ministry of Education.

“Providing local students with a modern learning environment aligns with our commitment to help each and every student reach his or her full potential,” said Bradley.

Dale Robinson, chair of the DSBN’s board of trustees, said closing two schools to open a new one was a “leap of faith” but she is glad to see it become a reality.

The new facility is more than just a building, she said - it’s staff and students who create its real identity.

“That’s what you should remember when you look back on your high school education,” she said to the students, educators and invited guests in attendance in the arts theatre.

Principal Fred Louws, who in the past has described the new high school as the Harvard of Niagara, said he was delighted to host Wednesday’s event for the community and students.

“We’ve had a great first two months but it’s only going to get better as we move forward as one family,” said Louws.

The new high school, the first built by the DSBN in 40 years, has 47 classrooms and a student population of 850.

A fundraising campaign still underway has a target of $2 million to help finance the $3-million theatre and is almost half-way to reaching its goal.

Students at the high school and DSBN feeder schools, as well as the community, will have a say in naming the Gryphons mascot in the near future.

Kris Dube
Special to the Times