Best High Schools in Ottawa

Top 5 High Schools in Ottawa

If you have a secondary-school-age child or relative, you’d naturally want them to go to the top high schools in Ottawa. Luckily, we’re featuring some of them in this article.

Aside from the dozens of private schools available for high-school students, there are four school boards in Ottawa. Today, we’re featuring English-language schools that are under two of them: the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board and the Ottawa Catholic School Board.

How Much Do High Schools Cost in Ottawa?

For the most part, high schools under school boards are publicly funded according to the number of student enrollees they have. This is what sets them apart from private high schools and the out-of-pocket tuition fees expected of them (generally costing anywhere between $30,585 to $71,720 per year).

These two student boards both have solid educational systems with one having a Catholic curriculum. Of course, there are two other school boards in Ottawa although they have an emphasis on French language-based curricula.

We made a table with fees taken from the two school boards we’re featuring today. They show the application fees and tuition required for one semester and a full year.

HIGH SCHOOLFEES
Ottawa-Carleton District School Board high schoolsApplication fee $400
1-semester tuition $7,400
Full-year tuition $14,800
Ottawa Catholic Schoo Board high schoolsApplication fee $400
1-semester tuition $7,000
Full-year tuition $14,000

Please note that these school boards also offer support for special education students, high-performance athletes and artists, and other learners. Other fees or financial options could be applicable for these kinds of support programs, as well.

The Top High Schools in Ottawa

Now that you know about the two English-language school boards and their fees, it’s time to take a look at the top high schools in Ottawa that they cover.

1.   Canterbury High School

Canterbury High School's Homepage
SERVICESArts magnet high school, co-education, semestered
ADDRESS900 Canterbury Ave, Ottawa, ON K1G 3A7
CONTACT NUMBER613-731-1191
[email protected]
WEBSITEhttps://canterburyhs.ocdsb.ca/
OPERATING HOURSMain office hours: Monday to Friday 8 AM – 4 PM

Canterbury High School has become popular among creative and talented students ever since its arts program was put up in 1983. There is also a general program being offered at the school, but it’s primarily known as an arts magnet secondary learning centre.

What sets it apart from other Ottawa-Carleton District School Board educational institutions is its Arts Canterbury Program. This four-year program supplements the academic program of students who want further education in disciplines like literature, visual arts, theatre, or music.

It’s not just those enrolled in the art program who are encouraged to flex their creative muscles, either. The school features participative and interactive events for all its students like film, theatre, and art festivals and platforms for creative assembly.

As a result, the school has an impressive graduate performance as far as achievements and recognitions go. Nearly half of Canterbury High School graduates have become Ontario Scholars, while another 50% have become recipients of entrance scholarships at different colleges and universities.

Pros

  • Unique arts program develops creative disciplines
  • Special education programs available for physically challenged students
  • Impressive graduate performance and achievements

Cons

  • No longer offers an aerospace engineering program
  • Website academics page needs updating

Customer Reviews

See how its former students liked their Canterbury HS experience:

“I love CHS. I feel accepted here and I’m not scared to be who I am. The teachers are generally really outgoing and social as well as helpful! Going to CHS actually makes me enjoy going to school.” – Dani Kos

“BEST high school ever. No one bullies anyone, there are no “cool kids” versus “others” or whatever. Everyone is exceptionally nice. I used to think it is sort of like Hogwarts lol. Seriously best school ever.” – Aleksandra Bojeva

2.   Nepean High School

Nepean High School's Homepage
SERVICESCommunity school offering University, College, French Immersion, Extended French, Enriched, Advanced Placement, Co-operative Education, Apprenticeship, Leadership Development, and Environment Specialist Program
ADDRESS574 Broadview Ave, Ottawa, ON K2A 3V8
CONTACT NUMBER(613) 722-6551
[email protected]
WEBSITEhttps://nepeanhs.ocdsb.ca/
OPERATING HOURSGrades 9 -12 (Semestered) Hours 9.05 AM – 3.15 PM

Nepean High School is another secondary learning institution under the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board. It takes pride in its enriched programs for academics, the arts, athletics, and leadership.

In 2009, the school became a designated site for environment-focused Specialist High Skills Majors. It’s made up of courses specific to the environment and all students who complete the program requirements become certified and distinguished graduates.

Because it’s been around for at least 90 years, Nepean High School students are typically third-generation family members with parents and grandparents who’ve also attended the school.

It considers itself a “community school” through and through. Its School Council has become an interactive platform for parents, students, school staff, and community members in attendance to discuss relevant issues and initiatives.

Feedback from former students and guests is generally favourable toward Nepean High School. However, several comments mention the lack of facilities to make the school more accessible for new and special-needs students alike. 

Pros

  • Offers enriched academics and art courses
  • Environment-focused SHSM program available
  • Holds regular community-centred activities and meetings

Cons

  • Some complaints about the school’s complex architecture
  • Some accessibility issues for special needs students

Customer Reviews

Read the following feedback from former Nepean High School students:

“Good school. The teachers are very helpful, nice and friendly. The interior architecture is complex which makes it a bit challenging for new students to find classes. Many stairs inside the school. Art classrooms are peaceful.” – Viet Nguyen

“The teachers, custodians, and principals/vice-principals are great. the building itself is huge. the only problem is that there are no elevators for people with special needs. The senior students are helpful and kind. I definitely recommend this school!” – Jacob Nusbaum

3.   Lisgar Collegiate Institute

Lisgar Collegiate Institute's Homepage
SERVICESSpecialized Gifted classes in Grades 9 -12, extended French program package in Grades 9 -12, International Advanced Placement Program in Calculus AB, European History, French Language, English Language and Composition, English Literature and Composition, Latin, Spanish, Music Theory and Statistics allow students to earn university equivalency credits, Third Languages: Spanish, Latin, music (strings, band, vocal), Visual Arts, Drama, Co-operative Education and Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program, outdoor education
ADDRESS29 Lisgar St, Ottawa, ON K2P 0B9
CONTACT NUMBER(613) 239-2696
[email protected]
WEBSITEhttps://lisgarci.ocdsb.ca/
OPERATING HOURSGrades 9 -12 (Semestered)
School Day 8.50 AM – 3 PM

In 2017 and 2018, the Fraser Institute ranked Lisgar Collegiate Institute as number one among secondary schools in Ottawa. It has such an enviable reputation that parents of transfer students have been known to camp out overnight near its premises!

But aside from being strategically located in downtown Ottawa, Lisgar boasts of renowned programs that entice students across the region. Its specialized Gifted Program is especially popular because it’s geared toward creative and critical thinkers who can learn at a faster pace than other students.

There’s also an International Advanced Placement Program where students essentially take credits equivalent to first-year university courses. These special courses are comparable to freshman classes of universities in Canada, the USA, and other nations.

For students who want to hone their creative skills and talents, there are arts programs in place at Lisgar Collegiate Institute, too. Aside from Visual Arts, there are programs for music and drama as well as musical groups and festivals to join.

Pros

  • Specialized Gifted Program available
  • Strategically located for students across the region
  • Top-ranked secondary school in Ottawa (for 2018)

Cons

  • Some complaints about a difficult grading system
  • Has discontinued participation in the International Student Space Simulation org

Customer Reviews

See how past students liked it at Lisgar Collegiate Institute:

“Lisgar or “LCI” is one of the best high schools worldwide. Coming from a rural school in a remote African village in 1970, it was a family and school for me. The teachers exemplified by Mr. David Lamperd who spent lunch hours teaching me sciences were most helpful. The history, international community(mini-United Nations) and the spirit of academic excellence, leadership and sports are incredible. Proud and blessed to be part of this great school!” – Emeka Njoku

“Friendly, welcoming community, great staff and amazing clubs, also a guaranteed method to getting strong legs.” – Fara Fellow

4.   All Saints High School

All Saints High School's Homepage
SERVICESHigh school for students with different-faith backgrounds
ADDRESS5115 Kanata Avenue, Kanata, ON K2K 3K5
CONTACT NUMBER613-271-4254
[email protected] 
WEBSITEhttps://ash.ocsb.ca/
OPERATING HOURSHigh school student schedule
Monday to Friday 8.15 AM – 2.30 PM

As part of the Ottawa Catholic School Board, All Saints High School offers several Specialist High Skills Majors to its students. These programs were created to give students hands-on experience for future careers while arming them with options and qualifications.

Participation and completion are recorded and formally recognized in their official students’ transcripts along with certifications, seals, and other documents. The SHSM programs available at All Saints include arts and culture, health and wellness, manufacturing, and information & communications technology.

Aside from the usual high school course outlines, there are different high school programs to accommodate various learning interests and styles. For instance, there are focus programs that utilize an experiential approach to learning so students can easily transition from school to a career.

For students who prefer learning via an online format, the school also offers e-learning classes. This allows students to earn more credits and to take on more than one course if they want to.

Pros

  • Specialist High Skills Majors programs offered
  • A Catholic school open to different faiths
  • E-learning courses are available
  • 3D tour available on the site

Cons

  • Not a lot of clubs or sports groups are available
  • Extracurriculars are only for students with good academic standing
  • Some complaints about strict academic standards

Customer Reviews

Read the following feedback for All Saints Catholic High School:

“All Saints was a fantastic high school experience for our children. The academic standards set by their mathematics and science departments are highly regarded by schools such as the University of Waterloo and provided a solid foundation for university studies.” – John Downing

“I am a student here, and I think that this school is very good. The teachers are very nice but know when it’s time to get down to business. They do several fun activities as well. The only downside is that they don’t have as many clubs or sports as an average school but are very good academically. So over all, a very good school.” – anonymous

5.   John McCrae Secondary School

John McCrae Secondary School's Homepage
SERVICESComprehensive community high school, High-Performance Athletics program
ADDRESS103 Malvern Dr, Nepean, ON K2J 4T2
CONTACT NUMBER(613) 823-0367
[email protected]
WEBSITEhttps://johnmccraess.ocdsb.ca/
OPERATING HOURSMain office hours
Monday to Friday 8 AM – 4 PM

Founded in 1999, John McCrae Secondary School aims to be a comprehensive, all-encompassing high school that goes beyond offering academic courses. There are clubs and athletic groups on campus, with a gay-straight alliance club being particularly welcome in a sea of traditional student groups.

It has expanded its facilities to include the Walter Baker Sports Centre by way of community partnerships. Doing so allowed the school to offer students various athletic programs like swimming, weightlifting, and squash.

In fact, if there’s a single thing that can define John McCrae, it would be its athletics programs. Aside from actively participating in the National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association, there’s also a High-Performance Athletics Program supporting the school’s elite athletes while allowing them to have quality education.

But the rest of the students are also carefully monitored so nobody falls into educational cracks. Several Student Success programs aim to identify and monitor those who are at-risk and who can qualify for the credit rescue and recovery programs to get them back on track with lessons.

Pros

  • Strong athletics programs
  • Modern facilities and classrooms
  • Student success tracking system identifies at-risk students
  • Gay-straight alliance club available

Cons

  • Too many programs on athletics
  • No Specialist High Skills Majors programs

FAQs About High Schools in Ottawa


Hopefully, this article on the top high schools in Ottawa can serve as your guide when you’re hunting for the best secondary education for your kids or relatives.

If you think we forgot to mention other good high schools in the city, please send us a message.

But if it’s a private education in particular that you’re looking for, you can also read our listicle on the best private schools in Ottawa to see which ones made the cut.