Ridgetown a pioneer in the field of secondary education for this district established its first high school in 1883. When it opened, there were only two rooms in the Public school building with 30 pupils and two teachers. Mr G.A. Chase was Principal and S.B. Sinclair was the assistant. The average age of the pupils was seventeen years. After the Christmas holidays, 82 pupils were enrolled. Mr Robert Moir, B.A. was added to the staff and the old Temperance Hall on Jane Street was pressed into service for a third room. In 1884 there were one hundred and forty-five pupils enrolled.
A new school building was completed in 1885. The Architect was Frank Brien and the contract price of the building was $7,467. After adding equipment and furniture, the total price was $10,162.47. The number of pupils in attendance in 1885 was 155. A number came from a great distance, attracted by the reputation of the school and particularly of Mr Chase, the Principal, who was an author of many of the literature texts used in the high schools of the province. The number of teachers employed in l885 was five and in that year the Government requirements were met to have the school rank as a Collegiate Institute. It remained a Collegiate Institute for many years but the requirements to keep it in that rank eventually became so excessive that it, with a number of other five teacher schools, had to reduce its rank to that of a high school.
In July 1889 the Collegiate Institute Board accepted the resignation of Mr Chase and Mr J.G. Little was appointed Principal at a salary of $1,100. Mr J.H. Smith was appointed assistant principal at a salary of $800.00. Mr J.G. Little remained Principal of the school until ill health forced his retirement in 1911. After Mr Little resigned there were frequent changes of Principals and there followed in order: Chas. Potter, F.H. Frost, J.G. McLaurin, J.R. Cameron, Thos. Preston and R.H. Young.
In 1926 the need for more practical home making and agricultural courses resulted in the erection of a vocational school building on the same site as the high school. Interest in the courses in agriculture has resulted in visits of Ministers of Agriculture and Education from Ontario, Saskatchewan, Australia and Tasmania. Additionally, school boards from a number of schools have introduced similar courses. The Agricultural School building is modern in every respect. It has two standard classrooms, four science laboratories, fully equipped cooking and sewing rooms, home nursing rooms, auditorium with stage and a mechanics room complete with power and hand tools for carpentry, forge work, tinsmithing and metal work. Judging courses are taught in the Judging Pavilion of the Experimental Farm. The High and Vocational Schools are operated as a unit. The first Principal of the combined schools was Mr Norman Davies who later became an Inspector and moved to Toronto. The present Principal, Mr J.W. Edwards, a member of the Senate of Western University, London became principal in 1932 and the first Principal of the New High School which was completed in 1941. The new school provides the latest in equipment, lighting and heating; contains four regular classrooms, a library, a commercial room, a science laboratory, girls and boys lunch rooms and showers and one of the finest gymnasiums in the province with a playing floor 80 feet by 46 feet. Buildings at the present time (1946) have a value of $250,000 (pre war estimate) with equipment valued at $20,000. The enrollment at present is 240 and the school can accommodate another 200 pupils without further building.
The Ridgetown Area comprises Ridgetown, most of Howard and Orford Townships and a section of Harwich Township. Each morning five buses leave Ridgetown to pick up pupils in the surrounding area, about sixty-five per cent of the entire enrollment at school arrives in buses.
Bus transportation free from January 1947
Annual Medical and Dental inspections
Accident Insurance covering all pupils
Free Hot Lunch dishes - October to April
Summer supervision of home projects
Radio programmes (Department of Education) bi-weekly
Visual aid equipment including sound and silent projectors
Cadet training, shooting competitions,
STAFF 1946 - 1947
Mr J.W. Edwards, B.A., B.S.A., B.Pead., - Principal, Physics, Agr. Sc.
Miss Marion Anglin, B.A.- Home Economics, Health, P.T.
Miss Olive Clark, B.A. - Mathematics
Mrs Edna Craven, B.A. - French , Music
Mr B.B. Foster B.S.A. - Chemistry, Agr. Sc. P.T.
Miss Marguerita Garner, B.A. - Latin, English, Art
Mr T. Murray, B.A, - English, History
Mr N. Muir, B.A., B.Pead. - English History
Mr Victor Noad, B.A, - Commercial subjects
Mr J.M. Powell, B.S.A.- Mechanics, Agr., Sc., Health
Miss Edith Wilcox, B.A. - Home Economics, Health, P.T.
Mr E.L.Woodley, B.S.A. - Biology, Agr. Sc., P.T.
HIGH SCHOOL BOARD
Dr. W.E.Lake, Chairman; Mr Fred Brien, Mr J.Dick, Mr P. Goodbrand, Dr. D. Marr, Mr L. Meredith, B.A, Mr L. Wilson; Secretary - Treasurer: Mr Carl Watson, B.A.
Mr J.C. Steckley, B.S.A., Chairman; Mr R. Desmond, Mr H. Scane, Mr D. McLaren, Mr N. obertson, Mr H. Wilson.
Transcribed from the records of Mrs. Geo. S. Brien, Rural Ridgetown Women's Institute.