Appleby College

Appleby College prepares its campus for centennial celebration

Regarded as one of Canada’s leading independent schools, Appleby College sits on 60-acres on the shore of Lake Ontario in Oakville. Its location is the result of foresight on the part of its co-founder John Guest who, in 1911, established a boarding school in the “country”, choosing the Township of Trafalgar (now Oakville) as its site. One hundred years later, as Appleby prepares to celebrate its centennial, part of Guest’s legacy is Appleby’s enviable campus, surrounded by trees, water and spacious grounds on some of Canada’s most valuable and beautiful real estate, and home to 750 day and boarding students from more than 30 countries around the world.

Since becoming headmaster in 1987, Guy McLean has worked to maintain Guest’s vision for Appleby College as the leading independent school of its day.  Under his leadership, combined with the support of an inspired leadership team and faculty, and an extraordinary curriculum that combines rigorous academics with dynamic arts, athletics, community and global service, it’s no wonder that the school continually earns numerous accolades and awards, re-enforcing its standing as a leader among national and international independent schools. Of course, Appleby students also greatly benefit from the school’s blending of academic excellence, athletic achievement and creative expression. Through its extensive guidance program 98 per cent of Appleby graduates advance to their first university of choice.

In keeping with the school’s commitment to continuous innovation, Appleby takes great care to extend its focus on ongoing development and improvement beyond academics. Its state-of-the-art facilities and physical structure of its campus also play important roles in the Appleby experience. Over the past few years, extensive renovations have been made to the Schlesinger Dining Hall, the Samuel Academic Resource Centre, and most recently, the Memorial Classroom Building and Nicholas Arts Centre.

Home for students

Throughout each project, the central focus of the renovations was on enhancing the school’s outstanding educational facilities, including the students’ living and study space. “You tend to think of a school as operating between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., ” says McLean, “but the reality is that  we have 275 students, both boys and girls, boarding with us. We want [Appleby] to feel like home, for students to be comfortable and have access to the kinds of spaces that they would want to use in free time and down time.”

Given that the school’s dining hall was built in commemoration of its 50th year, it was a serendipitous nod to fate that it, too, should undergo a remodelling to better reflect the school’s growing population and to provide an environment in which students can enjoy food and fellowship.  Gone are the traditional long wooden tables and high backed chairs in favour of a bright cafeteria-style hall with round tables and floor to ceiling windows that overlook the lake, not to mention a menu that provides  healthy food choices and is reflective of its international student population. Appleby has also implemented a number of green initiatives through its Reduce, Reuse, Rethink campus-wide campaign. In the Schlesinger Dining Hall for example, only reusable dining ware and biodegradable paper towels are used and all compostable waste is collected via a combination of garburators in the kitchen food preparation area and dining hall food scraps are collected for composting.

Samuel Academic Resource Centre

Located on the second floor, above the Schlesinger Dining Hall is another favourite student area—the Samuel Academic Resource Centre, or simply, the library. The sail on any academic ship, the library plays a vital role in the heart of the school. “There is an eminence of these our hills,” wrote William Wordsworth, words which came to mind when experiencing the exquisite view of the grounds and the lake from the library’s vantage point. The quality of the light and the space in the library, the walls of windows, would compel the most reluctant learner.

“The look of the library is modern with a classic feel to it,” says McLean.  “Appleby has been here for a long time and we want our students to have a sense of the history and tradition to the school. But at the same time it has to be contemporary and modern in terms of usability and fit the needs of students.” This includes a wireless environment where students can use their Fujitsu LIFEBOOK T4410 Tablets freely. In fact, Appleby College was the first e-school in Canada to introduce a 1:1 laptop program as part of its curriculum more than 12 years ago.

Most recently, this past summer, Appleby’s Nicholas Arts Centre received a new main entranceway as well as a second-level link connecting the centre to the main classroom building—complete with study carrels as well as an elevator to enhance ease of accessibility.

A complete retrofit of one of Appleby’s four residences was also completed which included the installation of new windows, flooring, furnishings and a new common room. Similar renovations will be introduced to a second residence this coming summer. As part of Appleby’s commitment to sustainability, important elements such as water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality are all taken into consideration and addressed in each project—ensuring that the boarding experience is a positive one.

The next major renovation involves the Memorial Classroom Building which will introduce a more contemporary look and feel to the interior space.  In the meantime, the infrastructure that makes Appleby the modern school it is has already been well established. Every classroom comes with wireless access and is equipped with SmartBoards, projectors and sound systems.

Campus legacy

“In preparation  for the centennial celebrations next year, our goal is to showcase an Appleby College  that looks like a 21st century school  even though it’s been here for 100 years,” says McLean.

So, how have the changes been received? “Students have been hugely positive about [the changes],” says McLean, “and so have their parents. Students appreciate that the changes are meant to help  improve their daily lives, and that we’ve taken the time to listen and understand their needs.”

McLean acknowledges that the vast majority of alumni who revisit the school are also very positive about the changes to their former home away from home. “Alumni say that while some of the buildings are new and changes have been made, once they walk on campus it begins to feel like home again. I think that probably says we are doing the job pretty well. As one walks the campus I think there is an impression of the incredible sense of the vibrancy and vitality of the students. We wanted to achieve  open and not oppressive space, so that is important to us.”

From the care of McLean and the Board of Governors, under whom the school’s legacy has been guarded and future prepared, Appleby College enters its 100th year. The campus is still home to its present and former students, and the spirit in which any changes are made are summed up in four words: nec temere, nec timide (neither rashly nor timidly). The commitment and focus of Appleby’s leaders have resulted in a school that provides an ideal learning environment for students to grow, intellectually and socially, developing healthy and happy citizens through the centennial year and into the next chapter of Appleby’s history.