Opinion

School Board Creates Education Desert

How often do we have to stress walkability and vibrant neighbourhoods? How often do we have to ironically re-phrase the slogan "Best Place to Raise a Child"?

By Tanya Ritchie
Published May 29, 2012

On May 28, the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) trustees made their decision to close seven high schools in Hamilton. They made this decision in the Education Centre at 100 Main West, which also will shortly be no more. They made this decision in front of a packed house, and streamed live online to many more.

Statue: A teacher stands guard over her students at the doomed Education Centre (RTH file photo)
Statue: A teacher stands guard over her students at the doomed Education Centre (RTH file photo)

In the building, in the one silver lining of the whole storm, were many young people - high school students. It was simultaneously heartbreaking and encouraging to see them. Heartbreaking because they clearly care so much, and their voices are being ignored; but encouraging because they clearly care so much, and we are too often told that young people today just don't care.

In the many conversations I've had on the subject of closing downtown high schools (the North ARC), the hardest allegation to swallow is that downtown families clearly don't care about these school closures at Parkview, Delta and Sir John A MacDonald.

What I feel is more true is that downtown families weren't informed and particularly weren't informed that they had a chance to speak up. Perhaps I'm incorrect. Perhaps downtown families would prefer to have these high schools closed, and would like their kids to commute to one larger school. But I don't think so. Clearly, kids and their families from the mountain care a lot.

This is at odds with the expressed goals of the city, and of the Board itself. How often do we have to stress walkability and vibrant neighbourhoods? How often do we have to ironically re-phrase the slogan "Best Place to Raise a Child"? This is not good for the young people growing up in Hamilton.

It's insulting, as a downtown parent, that the Board thinks they can wave a shiny object such as a new facility with state of the art Smart Boards, and that this will make up for the fact that my child will have to commute to school. I'd rather have blackboards and a short walk or bike ride. I'd rather spend that money on arts, music and sports programs and facilities. $31 million would buy a lot of resources.

Perhaps, rather than the tear-it-down attitude too frequently preferred by this Board, a re-drawing of school boundaries would have been a better option. Re-use of existing space that is allegedly going to waste. Anything other than shuttering community schools.

Rather than do that, they have created an education desert and are attempting to call it sound fiscal management. This map shows the shift of schools outward, abandoning their former locations:


View Hamilton School Closures in a larger map

When asked how they feel about the new school, the downtown parents I've spoken to have told me their options: move away, home school, or Catholic school. None of those are viable options for me. And we shouldn't have to make that choice.

Tanya Ritchie is an immigrant who moved to Hamilton ten years ago and lives in Ward 3. She is the co-owner of Hamilton Guest House, Hamilton's only backpackers' hostel.

13 Comments

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Read Comments

[ - ]

By JM (registered) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 12:55:37

this just in, School Board HQ is getting out of its own desert!

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Downtown Mama (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 13:00:04

As a downtown parent - it is incredibly sad to see these schools closing. We actually moved into the downtown core so that our children will go to a highschool right near our home, one that they can walk to easily and safely.

I agree with you, why couldn't they change the boundaries and fill up any schools that had fewer students! Invest in the buildings that are currently standing and improve them. Delta - a beautiful building that when closed will sit abandoned and empty for years.

I thought Hamilton wanted to improve it's city core and make it a great place to raise a child. Another bad decision by the city!

Permalink | Context

By Zephyr (registered) | Posted May 30, 2012 at 15:50:01 in reply to Comment 77478

This is exactly why people move into urban cores - to live in walkable neighbourhoods where all services are close at hand. I have lived in the Pier 4 community for 10 years now. My daughter is young, but I am already seriously thinking about the need to move. I will not send her to a mega-school. So sad that such a small group of people that don't seem particularly competent are making decisions that will impact the future of thousands of families.

Permalink | Context

By jason (registered) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 13:26:09 in reply to Comment 77478

Sir John A is operating at a higher capacity than Ancaster High, yet they wouldn't even allow Ancaster to be included in potential closure discussions. These moves have far more issues involved than simply fiscal prudence. Also, downtown census tracts in Sir John A catchment have had some of the highest growth rates in the city the past 2 censuses. Let's hope the Board realizes what century it is and throws a big Y2K party as a welcome to the future.

Comment edited by jason on 2012-05-29 13:27:59

Permalink | Context

By highwater (registered) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 13:24:54 in reply to Comment 77478

You can't blame the city for this one. It's all on the board.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By flabbergasted (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 13:34:02

One high school rule them all: the entire area from the waterfront to the escarpment, from Queen to Kenilworth. What a giant Eff You to the lower city!

Permalink | Context

By highwater (registered) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 13:52:54 in reply to Comment 77488

And just in case we didn't get the hint: http://raisethehammer.org/article/1609/h...

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By CouldaWouldShoulda (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 15:18:33

"In the many conversations I've had on the subject of closing downtown high schools (the North ARC), the hardest allegation to swallow is that downtown families clearly don't care about these school closures at Parkview, Delta and Sir John A MacDonald.

What I feel is more true is that downtown families weren't informed and particularly weren't informed that they had a chance to speak up."


For the time being, I'll simply say that we have a systemic problem in Hamilton that, though the analogy isn't pleasant, reminds me of someone within an abusive relationship: they get used to not fighting back.

The most evocative remarks that I've read here, and on 'Dissidents' are those from highwater and Ms Ritchie regarding the profound lack of attendance and general participation on the parts of those people who have the most at stake. However, take a look at what Matt Jelly says in his piece 'HWDSB: Downtown HQ Task Force disbanded':

"...and many citizens, myself included, will walk away feeling that many of our representatives didn't truly listen to our input, and went along with decisions they had already predetermined from day one."

and

"I can say for certain that the general public did not vote for this in 2010. Perhaps it's time for every citizen to pay closer attention to who we elect, at all of our elected institutions."


More, elsewhere. (Naturally.)

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By anonymously (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 16:00:46

The school board is clearly out of touch with their school communities. I believe that perhaps they should have considered a redrawing of school boundaries. My son had a hard time adjusting to high school and needed to have smaller class sizes. He was missing a lot of classes as he was not getting help and was falling far behind. It was suggested that he should attend Mountain as they have smaller class sizes and more one on one availability for him. We had transferred him and he is excelling and actually enjoying school. It is sad that in a few more years potentially we will be back in the same situation.

The school board only cares about the money that they will gain as I they will probably be sold off to more developers in the future.

This was an unfair process and no public input was really ever considered.

The HWDSB should be ashamed!!

Permalink | Context

By Paul V (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 19:57:41 in reply to Comment 77524

Anger. Dissappointment. So ... with an education desert in the lower city, I can expect to be paying less property taxes, right?

I've had it. I'm done with this.

Permalink | Context

By Steel-etto (anonymous) | Posted May 30, 2012 at 09:30:11 in reply to Comment 77541

Nope.i can speak from personal experience. Public schools were closed in my area and the eduction levy on my property tax actually went up.
Hope I can afford to move up he mountain so my kids can go to school.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By DrAwesomesauce (registered) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 21:21:10

I think it's safe to say that this will shape lower city development for years to come.

I mean, are you going to buy a home downtown knowing your kids will have to be shipped off to some mega-school? Absolutely not.

Depressing.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By rabidticat (anonymous) | Posted May 30, 2012 at 09:13:06

So, in the lower city, will we end up with one great big Omni-gang that does all their recruiting at the mega school, or are we going to be lucky enough to have to install metal detectors at that school to prevent the inevitable slaughter that would result from placing multiple gangs in the same building? Either way the forty-five minutes some students will be forced to travel to the mega school will ensure a vibrant supply of drug dealers, welfare recipients, teen parents, and low wage employees for decades to come. The social ills that these decisions may incur will have to be paid, one way, or another, by those that live in the community.

Permalink | Context

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to comment.

Events Calendar

Recent Articles

Article Archives

Blog Archives

Site Tools

Feeds