Skip To Main Content

Our History

It was the summer of 1983 when the idea for an independent school on the North Shore first started spreading. Without an option on this side of the Lions Gate Bridge, parents who wanted a non-denominational private school education for their children faced a lengthy commute to Vancouver’s West Side. West Vancouver resident Laura Groos knew she wanted something different for her son, David, and it wasn’t hard to find other parents who felt the same way. The vision for Collingwood began with mothers talking – and soon enough – strategizing. A little bit of luck brought them into contact with David Mackenzie, a friend of Groos’ father and a retired headmaster from one of British Columbia’s most respected schools. 

Members of the first Parents' Council, Penny Geer, Sally Petitpierre, Merina Hilton, Mercedes Cogan, Sue Barker and Valerie Angell, set the bar for volunteerism and parent spirit at the School.

With Mackenzie willing to lead the school, there was no looking back. By the fall of 1983, school leadership began to form. With the ambitious goal of opening by September 1984, thirteen parents, business people, and local politicians formed the first Board of Governors and drafted the school philosophy, emphasizing academic excellence, first-class instruction, sports, music, art, drama, and a genial, happy atmosphere. 

The road ahead was not without its obstacles. Finding a building for the school was a complex and frustrating process that involved navigating a maze of red tape. The Board considered numerous options, including Hollyburn Country Club, Capilano College, an old courthouse, and even a warehouse, before finally settling on leasing the decommissioned Glenmore Elementary School from the West Vancouver School Board. But, as the school year quickly approached, the Founders were left in limbo, waiting for the lease to be approved while they simultaneously scrambled to hire teachers, develop a curriculum, and order uniforms. It was only six weeks before the first day of school when the lease was finally signed.


Collingwood School was named after the HMCS Collingwood, a ship that served with the Royal Canadian Navy during the Second World War and was commanded by Laura Groos’ father. 

Founder Laura Groos cuts the ribbon at the opening ceremonies on September 9, 1984

Founder Laura Groos cuts the ribbon at the opening ceremonies on September 9, 1984, the day before classes began. Inset: a hot air balloon, a metaphor for getting the new school "off the ground" rises above the crowd during the festivities.


Groos’ idea came to fruition in September of 1984, when Collingwood School opened its doors to 241 eager pupils. Without uniforms, desks, and even blackboards, Headmaster Mackenzie exuded confidence and promised uneasy parents that Collingwood would soon become a prestigious independent institution. They just had to trust him. 

With no government funding to lean on, the Board resorted to vigorous fundraising efforts and parent involvement, with tasks ranging from manning the reception desk to traffic control. Amid a sea of students clad in azure tartan, dedicated teachers and supportive parents, Collingwood’s culture of excellence and community became clear.

Mackenzie shepherded Collingwood through its first three years and when he retired in 1987, enrollment had almost tripled and a new senior class was added each year; Collingwood may have been in its infancy, but its reputation was growing. 

The first plans for expanding the school came up in 1987. The Morven campus alone couldn’t accommodate a larger student body, but more students could put Collingwood at a level playing field with other independent schools. Knowing that acquiring land adjacent to Morven would be impossible, a search for appropriate land began and eventually a parcel of land on Wentworth Ave. was purchased for a Junior School. The expansion at the Morven campus saw the addition of a Parents Wing thanks to the fundraising prowess of Liz Byrd (Parents’ Council’s first chairperson) and Joe Houssian.

The Wentworth Campus opened in 1997 and with it came a large intake of new students. To maintain a  connection between the Junior and Senior School students, the Kindie Buddy program brought the Kindergarten and Grade 12 students together multiple times per year and the Lifers’ Lunch reunited Grads with their Junior School teachers at the end of the year – two traditions that continue to this day.

First Headmaster David Mackenzie, with a group of the first students at Collingwood.

First Headmaster David Mackenzie, with a group of the first students at Collingwood. Their cheerful blue uniforms earned the nickname "smurfs" on local neighbourhood bus lines.

In 1989, Collingwood’s first graduate class walked across the stage. These students and their parents had weathered the school’s ever-evolving first five years and their success proved the school and its founding ideals were something to celebrate. This remarkable group of young people were among the best students in British Columbia in their provincial exams while embodying a well-rounded education that spanned the Four Strands–academics, arts, athletics and service. 

Collingwood's continued success over the years is a testament to the dedication of its founders, faculty, staff, and parents. Today, the school remains committed to providing an exceptional education and fostering a sense of community that extends beyond the classroom. Now one of the top independent schools in Canada, Collingwood serves over 1,200 students from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12. Its two campuses provide state-of-the-art facilities and a range of programs to personalize each student's learning as they pursue their passions across the Four Strands. Graduates join the global community as critical thinkers who are resilient, socially conscious and prepared to make the most of their opportunities.