The Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) is excited to formally announce Laurel Heights Secondary School, the Waterloo high school located at 650 Laurelwood Drive that was recently renamed.

In June 2021, the Ad Hoc School Naming Review Committee acknowledged that the original legal name had caused pain and harm to Indigenous communities since it opened in 2004.

This process is a part of our commitment to making concrete changes in support of the Calls to Action outlined by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

To help support the renaming process, a Renaming Committee was formed in November 2021 and a broad consultation process was established with all stakeholder groups. Not only was it important that the school community was engaged, but it was critical that Indigenous members of the community had a voice in the process. 

During the first round of the public consultation process, the committee – trustees, staff, Indigenous representatives, and community members – reviewed more than 450 names that were submitted over a four week period during their community engagement campaign. That list was narrowed down to five names which staff and students had the opportunity to vote on. From there, a list of three names were selected to present to trustees.

“Student and community voice played an integral part in the process from the outset and will show us where we need to go – as long as we are open to really hearing the message and taking those next steps,” said Vida Collis, principal of Laurel Heights SS.

The name Laurel Heights connects to both the community neighbourhood and the natural world, through the connection to Laurel Creek. The name offers students an opportunity to learn about, connect with, and develop deep respect and relationship for both the natural world and their neighbourhood.

“Though the decision and process to change the name is an Act of Reconciliation in and of itself, it scratches the surface in what we need to do to ensure that all students feel seen, valued and represented in our schools,” shared Collis.

The renaming of schools is one way our Board can decolonize the policy around the naming of schools and have it reflect the WRDSB’s commitment to Truth and Reconciliation, Human Rights, Equity, and Inclusion, and be compliant with the Ontario and Canadian Human Rights Codes.

“A school is really not the name on the outside of the building – it is the people within it and the experiences they have,” Collis shares as she reflects on the school culture their students and staff are trying to create. “It was an honour to help and I know that we will carry this thoughtful momentum moving forward.”

At a Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday, March 21, 2022, trustees approved the recommended name as brought forward by the Renaming Committee.