Renfrew County District School Board – Renfrew County, Ontario, Canada

May 30, 2024

Renfrew County District School Board

Empowering Communities Through Education


Nurturing growth and the future workforce through partnerships and holistic development.

For the leaders at the Renfrew County District School Board (RCDSB), setting an inspired learning framework around core skills, global competencies and deep learning embraced by students, staff, and in partnership with the community, grounds the dynamic path ahead, while confidently navigating challenges along the road.

Nestled in the diverse geological landscape of Eastern Ontario, this rural county’s school board has done an excellent job of overcoming general and region-specific challenges.

Beyond the typical monetary obstacles, like budget constraints, Renfrew County District School Board also places importance on delivering curriculum and Ministry of Education priorities to engage every student to meet their potential in every pathway.

The Renfrew County District School Board maintains a collaborative, District-wide network of robust partnerships with local municipalities, businesses, and community organizations. These collaborations not only enrich educational opportunities through cooperative placements for example, but also strengthen ties by sharing school spaces with the community, creating a supportive ecosystem for student development.

At the grassroots level, investment in infrastructure and resources is an ongoing challenge to ensure that the learning environment meets the needs of students and is accessible to all.

A focus on modernizing facilities to make them more accessible, enhancing access to technology, and providing professional development opportunities, all in service of providing students with the best learning environment possible.

With a holistic approach and unwavering dedication, the Renfrew County District School Board can pave the way for a brighter future for all. It’s about nurturing a learning ecosystem where innovation flourishes, partnerships thrive, and students are prepared to contribute meaningfully to society.


School as the Center of the Community

With Renfrew being Ontario’s largest county, the district school board certainly understands that it is uniquely positioned to bridge the gap between people, communities, and resources that would otherwise be inaccessible to them.

Because of this, over time, the RCDSB’s schools have become community hubs, acting as resource centers for the smaller communities in the area. Collectively, there are approximately 9500 students enrolled within the district between 7 secondary schools and 21 elementary schools.

The county is geographically large, but the school district itself is relatively small in population, and to compensate, the board has maintained an expansive network of community partners who support the district’s schools in providing learning opportunities to the students.

“We are extremely grateful to our community partners for the support that they provide to our schools,” Director of Education, Kristen Niemi says, referencing the municipalities and organizations that support the district’s schools.

One of the key strategies here has been to provide all students from grades 7 to 12 with individual Chromebooks to encourage more technology-enabled learning.  With the job market rapidly evolving, the goal is to provide students with experiences where they can develop crucial skills that will prepare them for future careers.

Municipal partnerships prove important. The County of Renfrew advocates for expanded broadband and cell service in the County, a service that will ensure that students and their families have equal access to internet, to use Chromebook technology to their full advantage both at school and home.

Because of this, the Renfrew County District School Board stands proudly at the intersection of education and community empowerment.

Fostering Students through Innovative Programming

The RCDSB’s commitment to student success extends beyond traditional classroom measures. Board leadership firmly believes in experiential learning as a pathway to global competencies, therefore it provides a wide range of educational and workplace opportunities to help students learn through engaged, hands-on experiences.

Programs like the Specialist High Skills Majors and Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program provide students with hands-on experiences and sector-specific certifications, preparing them for diverse career pathways. In turn, students graduate able to fill many of the needs in the community.

These programs lean on the district’s robust cooperative education structure and a strong network of partners.

“We’ve had over 3000 different employers that have supported our students through co-op opportunities,” says District Principal Peter Burnette, explaining that the employers who partner with them recognize that they are helping to grow future employees who will work in a diverse lineup of industries.

Many of these program pathways allow students to develop critical life skills that often get overlooked. Some of the specialty programs available to students include industry sectors such as food processing, health and wellness, hospitality and tourism, information and communication technology, justice, community safety, emergency services, manufacturing, sports, and transportation… to name a few.

Renfrew County District School Board has one of the highest participation rates in the Province of Ontario. These opportunities are available to students beginning in grade 11, however early on students get hands-on experiential learning beginning in kindergarten, and throughout their education.

For example, this year, the District created a program called ‘Entrepreneur’s for Change.’  Classes worked together and create products and businesses while gaining entrepreneurial insights.  Students chose a local charity to donate their proceeds.

“Students were building skills around financial literacy… we had them go through a process of accessing seed money to understand that they were borrowing funds to create a business venture,” Peter Burnette says,

The project had participation from elementary and secondary classes, and aptly captures the 6Cs global competencies of inspired learning, building character, citizenship, collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking.

The most positive outcome of these programs, however, is the amount of ownership the students take over their learning. They were building entrepreneurial skills and felt good about the fact that they were making a difference.


Investing for Future Generations

That RCDSB infrastructure includes 27 school and district buildings spread out over Renfrew County.

These facilities are in almost constant use by students during the day and various community groups and partners at night, therefore renovations are important to maintain accessibility and health and safety standards.

“Every year we do a lot of ventilation and roofing work to keep our buildings warm, safe and dry,” says Senior Manager of Facilities Bill Murray, who noted that even their maintenance and upkeep is a collaborative effort with suppliers.

Most notably, the RCDSB has contracted through procurement process Garland Roofing for the past 25 years for its roofing solutions and has worked with the Nerva Energy Group to introduce new air treatment and filtration technologies into its school ventilation systems. It is also working with Envari Energy Solutions to replace the ventilation infrastructure at three of its high schools.

This shows a commitment to the health and safety of the students and is one of many examples of the types of investments the Board is making to improve the student experience. Through strategic investments like this, the Board can effectively create conducive learning environments that empower students to thrive.

When it comes to government investment in facility upgrades the Board is looking for more flexibility in how projects and programs are funded. This will allow it to continue to make its schools more accessible, and increase access to equipment and technology to meet the needs of students and ready them for the jobs needed in the local community today and the global community of the future.

Recognizing the unique challenges of rural communities, RCDSB advocates for a flexible funding model tailored to local needs. With limited population base, older infrastructure and rising costs, rural schools require targeted investments to bridge the gap and unlock their full potential.

Flexibility in funding allocation enables the board to nurture vital partnerships and drive community development initiatives in support of improved student achievement and well-being.

According to the Chair of the Board of Trustees, Susan Humphries, the trade and labour shortages are being felt across the nation are also true in rural areas, with added complexity of almost no public transportation and a smaller population base. School transportation costs are high, with no public alternative. This is one example of why a region-specific model is needed.

“A rural funding model will address some of these broader pieces, but then the flexibility would allow us to invest where we need to,” Humphries says, explaining that successfully creating this model, like all things within the District, will involve collaborative approach, specifically with the Ministry of Education and also community partners.

As it looks ahead, the Renfrew County District School Board envisions a future where education catalyzes community empowerment.

By nurturing partnerships, embracing innovation, and advocating for funding that addresses rural exceptionalities, RCDSB strives to create a vibrant educational ecosystem where each student has the opportunity to succeed.

With well-being, inclusion, and developing student competencies that meet the needs of today and tomorrow, the RCDSB continues to pave the way one empowered community at a time.


Renfrew County District School Board

Where: Renfrew County, Ontario, Canada

What: A pioneering District School Board empowering communities through education.



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