The Director of the Halton District School Board (HDSB) has released his recommendation arising from the Program & Accommodation Review (PAR) of Burlington high schools, which calls for the closure of Robert Bateman High School and Lester B. Pearson High School, and program changes at the five other Burlington high schools.
- Robert Bateman High School to be closed June 2019 and students re-directed to Nelson High School and M.M. Robinson High School.
- The International Baccalaureate Program to transfer from Robert Bateman High School to Burlington Central High School, effective September 2019.
- Lester B. Pearson High School to be closed June 2018 and the students re-directed to M.M. Robinson High School commencing September 2018.
- French Immersion program to be moved from Dr. Frank J. Hayden Secondary School as of September 2018, beginning with the Grade 9 program.
- Students from the “Evergreen” community (currently undeveloped) will be directed to M.M. Robinson High School.
- Aldershot High School will be explored as a site for a magnet program or themed school.
- Tecumseh Public School to be fully directed to Burlington Central High School (Tecumseh is currently split between Central and Nelson).
More programming for special needs students
Additional programming will be added for students with special needs, bringing programming closer to where students live. The report recommends by Sept. 2019:
- establishing a second Essential Program site. Nelson High School will serve students residing south of the QEW/Hwy 403, while students residing north of the QEW/Hwy 403 will attend M.M. Robinson High School.
- continuing two sites for the Community Pathways Program (CPP); students residing south of the QEW/Hwy 403 will attend Nelson High School, and students residing north of the QEW/Hwy 403 will attend M.M. Robinson High School.
- offering the LEAP program in two locations; students residing south of the QEW/Hwy 403 will attend Nelson High School, while students residing north of the QEW/Hwy 403 will attend M.M. Robinson High School.
With Nelson and MM both offering CPP, Essential level and Gifted programming, transportation times will be reduced, states the report.
The Board has adopted recommendations made by SEAC whereby students with special needs in regular courses “will receive accommodations, modifications and support as needed in their new school settings.” Transitioning the Community Pathways Program from one high school to another will receive support from the Student Services Department, as recommended by SEAC, adds the report.
“An impact of the recommendation is the creation of two composite schools in Burlington, one in the north (M.M. Robinson High School) and one in the south (Nelson High School), both offering a full range of all programs, thus supporting students with special needs to attend schools closer to their residences,” states the report. “It is expected the recommendations and the subsequent transition of the students it causes will result in stability for these schools and provide all students a greater breadth of program and opportunities.”
Costs have been a concern raised in the community, so the following is a summary of some of the cost implications of the recommendation. The report also details potential funding sources.
None of the program space at Pearson would need to be replicated elsewhere, notes the report.
Some of the technological education program spaces at Bateman may need to be reproduced where they do not currently exist at M.M. Robinson High School and/or Nelson High School, states the report, although both schools currently have existing technological education facilities so not all renovations may be required.
The estimated cost to replicate what exists at Bateman is roughly $9.5 million. Any new design for the enhanced Special Education programming at Nelson and MM Robinson would have a combined cost estimate of $2 million, for a total cost of renovations at $11.5 million.
That’s about the same as the school’s five year facility renewal costs of $10.4 million plus approximately $1 million in additional accessibility requirements should the school remain open (as detailed in the School Information Profiles 2017 and the Facility Audit for Accessibility for Burlington Secondary Schools 2017).
The operational savings under the Director’s recommended option is $2.1 million. Savings for each of the five options recommended by the Program & Accommodation Review Committee of 14 parents is provided in the report, and ranges ranges from zero savings (under no schools close option) to $1.2-$2 million in savings. The PARC recommended five options for the Director’s consideration including Bateman & Pearson close, Bateman closes, Nelson closes, Central & Pearson close and no schools close.
The report provides additional information on a wide range of matters including why the recommendation changed, the rationale for each of the recommendations, the role and membership of the PARC, population projections and intensification, enrolment numbers, ministry funding grants, community and municipal partnerships, implementation planning, public input and more. In coming posts, I will summarize some of this information so the public has it for your own evaluation.
You can also read the entire report here: Report17075-DirectorsFinalReport-April 21-complete
I encourage everyone to read the full report for themselves so they know what’s in it and can make their own conclusions about the recommendation and rationale.
There has been active community engagement throughout the PAR, which has grown and continues to grow as the process unfolds. All communities have organized themselves, with resident-led initiatives on social media (school community Facebook pages, Twitter feeds or websites), lawn sign campaigns, door to door visits, petitions, community meetings, rallies, a hug-a-school event and special school council meetings. Collectively thousands of residents across Burlington made their voices heard, providing solid, well argued feedback on all of the options.
I have personally heard from hundreds of residents. There is growing support in the community for a “no schools close” option. There is also community support to close schools, to address programming challenges at low enrolment schools, and redirect funds used to keep underutilized schools open to better uses.
It’s been inspiring to see the level of community engagement in this issue, and the leadership of community members to mobilize their friends and neighbours to get involved. I encourage everyone to continue to participate in this discussion.
Make your voice heard
There are still a number of opportunities for public input before the final trustee vote:
April 26: Director’s report considered by Board of Trustees at Committee of the Whole, 6pm.
May 8 & 11: Public delegation evenings, 6pm. Residents must register in advance (deadline is three days prior to each meeting). Space is limited and delegations may be combined if covering the same topic.
May 17: Report presented to Board of Trustees. 7pm
June 7: Vote by Board of Trustees. 7pm
All meetings are at the J.W. Singleton Centre at 2050 Guelph Line (at Upper Middle). They are open to the public and livestreamed on the HDSB website.
You can write directly to the trustees to share your views about the recommendation. Their addresses, and which city/ward they represent, are below.
Kelly Amos, Chair of the Board 2016
Oakville – Ward 5 & 6
Kim Graves, Vice-Chair 2016
Milton – Wards 1, 6, 7, 8
Milton – Wards 2, 3, 4, 5
Halton Hills – Wards 1, 2, 3, 4
Burlington – Ward 5
Burlington – Wards 3, 6
Burlington – Ward 4
Burlington – Wards 1, 2
Tracey Ehl Harrison
Oakville – Wards 1, 2
Ann Harvey Hope
Oakville – Ward 3
Oakville – Ward 4
I have taken some time to read and reflect on the report and the process to date, as a parent and as a former PARC member.
Let me start by saying my heart goes out to the Pearson and Bateman communities.The recommended option is undoubtedly devastating news. I toured each of the high schools along with other PARC members. Every school in Burlington is unique and offers something special to its students and communities. No one wants to see a school in their community closed. Any school closure is disruptive and represents a loss.
I came into this process with a commitment to do what is best for all our students, and have an open mind to new information. I have learned there is no perfect solution for the issues faced by the Board, and no solution without some impact on the community – even status quo.
There will be community disruption no matter what the final decision is, including closing no schools, since boundary changes would still be required to address over or under enrolment at four of our schools, effectively “closing” those schools to students who find themselves outside of redrawn boundaries.
Some options are better (or worse) than others, and I have discovered there is no consensus around any option, in the community, at the PARC or at the Board table. This will not be an easy decision for Trustees to make – nor should it be.
Whatever decision the Board of Trustees makes, we must work together as a community to ensure it is implemented with student welfare at the forefront, and ensure it improves the educational experience for all of our students for the long term.
Thank you to the PARC
Serving on the PARC was an honour and privilege. I can’t think of anything more deserving of my volunteer time than this issue in our community. I was very fortunate to be able to work with fellow parents to participate in such an important process. Everyone contributed to the discussion, and I learned a lot from listening to what others had to say.
Serving on the PARC was also one of the most challenging and emotionally draining experiences I have ever had. It brought communities together to try to save their school, but it also divided communities across the city, and became like a game of survivor. The “no schools close” option didn’t pick up momentum till late in the PARC process, and even then, there was not unanimous support. There still isn’t.
We were required to evaluate, refine or present options for consideration. It was extremely difficult to talk about the pros and cons of closing another community’s school – or listen to why other PARC members thought your school should close. There was nothing simple or easy about any of it. PARC members rose to the challenge under these extremely difficult circumstances to try to provide the best input and set of options they could.
I am grateful for the contribution of each member.
Our goal was, and is, improving education for all students for the long term.
So where do we go from here?
I encourage everyone to get involved and stay involved: what happens with our schools affects us all. I will continue to be involved in this process every step of the way, up to the vote and after, letting residents know how they can participate.
I remain committed to improving the PAR process and education funding formula, and seeking a province-wide moratorium until changes can be made. (Our Open Letter in March to the Premier and others suggested 13 improvements; I also endorse changes recommended by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and the Rural Ontario Municipal Association).
I also ask residents to be respectful of each other, recognizing that your friends and neighbours may have a different perspective than you about the specific recommendations or the issue of school closures in general. We will have some healing to do as a community after this process, to mend the divisiveness that has occurred.
Emotions are running high, and that’s okay and to be expected, given the importance of schools to each community. Let’s commit together to respectfully agree to disagree, without getting negative or personal.
Let’s not direct our emotions against others, whether parents, board staff, trustees or other community members, but towards making the case for the best decision for all our students for the long term.