Staff of the Halton District School Board have prepared an implementation report arising from the decision by Trustees to close two Burlington high schools and make changes at five remaining high schools. The implementation report was approved by the Board of Trustees June 21.
On June 7, trustees voted to close Robert Bateman High School effective June 30, 2020, close Lester B. Pearson High School, effective June 30, 2018, and make other programming changes including:
- redirect French Immersion from Frank J Hayden Secondary School to M.M. Robinson High School
- direct Tecumseh Public School graduates to Burlington Central High School
- investigate and explore a range of program opportunities for Aldershot High School, including a magnet school, themed school, alternative school or incubator school. Details will be presented to trustees by February 2018.
Details of the decision were shared with the community via a letter: HDSB Letter to Community Re PAR June 8
An outcome of the decision includes the creation of two comprehensive schools in Burlington, one in the north at M.M. Robinson High School and one in the south at Nelson High School both offering a full range of programs and allowing students with special needs to attend schools closer to home, states the letter. In addition, the International Baccalaureate program will be established at Burlington Central High School.
Additional background is in the Director’s report here: Director’s Final Report May 17 2017 Burlington Secondary Program and Accommodation Review
The implementation report (Page 118 of the June 21 Board Agenda) outlines a number of steps being taken to implement the decision including:
- creation of a steering committee with senior staff and departmental representation to coordinate all aspects of the school consolidation processes including staffing, student integration and transitions, school closings and new school reculturing, program changes and facility changes. Minutes of these meetings will be shared publicly.
- establishment of three School Integration Committees: a Burlington Central High School/ International Baccalaureate Committee; a Nelson and Robert Bateman High Schools Committee; and an M.M. Robinson and Lester B. Pearson High Schools Committee. Each committee must include the Superintendent, Principal, Trustee, School Council Chair or designate from each of the affected schools and may include additional members. Board staff recommend both students and Special Education Advisory Committee be invited to participate. Committees will be established in fall 2017 once School Council Chairs have been determined.
- establishment of a committee in the fall of 2017 to investigate the concept of a specialty focus for Aldershot High School including but not limited to a theme, magnet, incubator and/or alternative school concept. Membership will include a variety of stakeholders from the Aldershot school community, central board staff and School Program staff.
- development of a communications strategy that will incorporate opportunities for consultation and input from various stakeholder groups throughout the implementation process. An email communication is being prepared for all Burlington secondary school families which will be sent out prior to the end of June.
- appointment of an architect by September 2017 to assist with facility changes arising from the decision.
- debrief of the PAR process with PAR Committee, via a survey and opportunity for debrief meeting. The survey will be sent to all 14 PARC members for process feedback within the parameters of the Ministry and Board Policies governing the PAR. Any debrief/review meetings will be conducted in the fall by PARC Chair Superintendent Scott Podrebarac and PARC Ad Hoc Trustee Donna Danielli.
Meanwhile, the province has announced a review of the PAR process, with a particular focus on the impact of closures in rural and northern communities. No new PARs can commence until the review is complete. The announcement is not retroactive to decisions already made.
Both Pearson and Bateman communities have filed for an administrative review, which reviews whether the HDSB followed board and provincial policy during the PAR, and makes recommendations if warranted, but cannot overturn the decision. Within 60 days of the request being filed, the ministry will decide whether to appoint a facilitator to undertake an Administrative Review.
Now that the decision has been made, the community must hold the board to account to ensure the result is improved programming for all students across the city – one of two reasons the PAR began. Our students and school communities deserve the best transition and implementation plan possible, and community members should look for ways to get involved in making it happen.
As one of 14 parent members on the PARC, I look forward to providing feedback on the PAR process. Some ideas for improvement have already been articulated in an open letter to the Premier last March. I’m glad the province has committed to reviewing the PAR process.
This process has been a difficult one for the community and many individuals are grieving the loss of their school. Let us come together to ensure the result is improved education for all students across Burlington.