Dewey College plans to have the former Nipissing Universiity campus in Bracebridge up and running with international students within months.
Speaking this morning, Craig Shelswell, Dewey College’s director of education, said they will likely take over the facility in March and begin classes by the summer.
“We’ll have a private high school on the site,” said Shelswell. “The basic program is an Ontario secondary school diploma but we’re Language Canada registered, so we do English as second language to international students.”
On Monday, Nipissing University and the Town of Bracebridge announced that a deal with Dewey College had been reached in December of 2017. Dewey has been operating out of a campus in Mississauga for 13 years and have been looking to branch out for the past several years, says Shelswell.
“We ‘ll keep our site in the GTA but we wanted to expand out of the GTA,” says Shelswell, who has been with Dewey for the past eight years. “We wanted a location that had not just an educational building but a residence on site. Most of our students are international students and their parents are very keen on having their kids stay in residence on site.”
Many of the students expected to come to the Bracebridge campus will be here for only a month or two, he says, and will be primarily seeking English enrichment. Despite being much smaller and less culturally diverse than the GTA, Shelswell says Muskoka has a lot to offer students.
“For them, the site itself will be an attraction,” he says. “We can run some outdoor education planning and it’s a different environment for them. The parents are going to like the site.”
The three main home countries of the students are China, Vietnam and Nigeria, says Shelswell. The one thing they all have in common is their desire to learn English, he says. From there, the majority head off to their home countries to work or pursue further education, although Shelswell says some do remain in Canada to work or go to school.
“There are also lots who take business courses and then head back home to a family business,” he says. “The parents are doing this because they know the world is opened up and they’re going to need those assets in the next generation.”
The students will be expected to get out into the community and play an active role, says Shelswell, much as they are at the Mississauga campus.
“The kids have volunteer hours that they need to do and we get them out and about and involved. “If they’re international students and English is not their first language they need to have practice speaking the language and working with it.There are different things in Bracebridge that I’m sure we can get involved with.”
Dewey College plans to hire locally, although Shelswell isn’t yet sure of exact numbers or positions required.
“I’m not sure what the teacher pool is like in Bracebridge, but I’m sure there are some teachers there who will be looking for employment,” he says. “As far as other staff go we’ll be looking at hiring locally. We want to be a part of the community. This isn’t about just moving in and running a school.”
Nipissing originally began a statelitte campus in Bracebridge in 1996, before moving to their home on Wellington Street in 2008. They completed the residence building at their $6.6 million Bracebridge campus in 2011 before abruptly pulling the plug on the entire Muskoka operation in 2016.
The fact that the building never saw extensive use was a significant selling point for Dewey.
“It’s the next best thing to a turn-key operation,” says Shelswell. “It’s all there, there’s no renovations needed for us and it’s just about perfect for us to move into.”
Shelswell says they anticipate summer programing to start later this year and regular classes to begin September 4.