Kingston Collegiate Vocational Institute (KCVI)


Why it matters:

Kingston Collegiate Vocational Institute (KCVI) was founded in 1792 and moved to its current location in 1892. It is considered the earliest secondary school in Ontario. The oldest remaining wing dates to 1915 (the original was destroyed by fire) and building modifications and additions were made in 1932 and the 1960s. It is the only high school in Kingston built in the distinctive Collegiate Gothic style, known for its craftsmanship and elegance of design. It is the only secondary school located in the downtown area within easy walking distance to residential neighbourhoods. It is a local landmark and an integral part of the broader institutional precinct that includes Queen’s University, Kingston General Hospital and related elementary schools.

In 2012, KCVI was ranked as the top performing school in the Limestone District School Board by the Fraser Institute and in the top 10% of public schools in Canada.

Why it’s endangered:

In 2011, the Limestone District School Board undertook a program and accommodation review that has resulted in a recommendation to close KCVI (fully enrolled with a waiting list), along with another secondary school, in favour of the construction of a new composite high school.

Where things stand:

Although there has been little capital investment in KCVI over the past 10 years, the building remains in fair condition, according to an engineering report. The Kingston Municipal Heritage Committee has recommended that the school be designated under the Ontario Heritage Act, but City Council decided to defer that decision until after the school closure process has concluded.

The board’s recommendation for closure will be incorporated into a business plan and included with its application for provincial funding in October. Should the provincial funding for new construction not come through, a secondary board recommendation would see KCVI remain open, but would require provincial funds for rehabilitation work. With enrolment at capacity, the school plays a vital role in the vitality of the downtown area. Enormous community support (including Queen’s University) favours retention of KCVI. Advocacy groups Save KCVI and Save Kingston City Schools have active awareness raising strategies in place.

Aggravating the situation is the policy in Ontario that sees the construction of all new schools paid for by the province, while repairs to existing schools must come out of school board budgets.

UPDATE 2014: The KCIV’s supporters requested a judicial review of the schoolboard’s decision to close the school, claiming that proper procedures were not followed and information was withheld from the public. In February, 2015, however, the Ontario Divisional Court upheld the schoolboard’s decision. The board is moving forward with site selection for the new school, indicating that KCIV will remain open until construction is completed in approximately three years.

UPDATE 2021: After closing and relocating its students in 2020, the future of Ontario’s oldest secondary school was uncertain. Queen’s University announced the purchase of the historic KCVI in June 2021. Becoming part of Queen’s University means the school will continue its legacy as a place of learning. Any future renovations to the building will preserve the existing facades which are protected by provincial heritage designation.

Location: Kingston, Ontario

Top 10 Endangered Places List: 2013

Status: Positive Outlook

Stay in touch. Get our newsletter.