Special Report: Education

Letter: Keep Mountain Secondary Open

The School Board has high schools that provide specialized learning programs for students who do well in school, but nothing for students who will struggle once Mountain Secondary School is closed.

By Ryan McGreal
Published February 24, 2015

A concerned parent of a Mountain Secondary School student (and former Parkview Secondary student) has written a letter to the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) Trustees asking to keep Mountain Secondary open. It is reprinted here (slightly edited) with the author's permission

I am writing to you regarding the upcoming motion to keep Mountain Secondary School open as a System School for Students of Promise.

As the parent of a special needs student I need you to understand what it is like to see your child struggle in school and to feel like they don't belong. This is what my child and many children felt up until Grade 9 at Parkview.

As I'm sure you are aware transitioning to High School may be a stressful time in any students life. It is even more so for special needs students. I struggled with where would be the best place for my son. I looked at several schools and programs and decided that Parkview Secondary School could offer what I thought my son would need.

This was the best decision I could have made for my son for both his academics and social wellbeing. For the first time, he felt like he belonged.

When there was talk of closing Parkview and Mountain, we kept hearing from the Board that they want the students in "inclusive" schools.

That's exactly what Parkview was. All students had special needs of some sort but they were not the same. They all felt like they belonged for the first time in their school life. If that is not inclusion, what is?

The definition of the word inclusion is "the act of being included, embracing". That was the definition of Parkview; all students were embraced for their unique qualities.

You have the opportunity to continue the programming that was successful for many students at Parkview at the Mountain Secondary School site.

Families should have a choice as to where is the best place for their child to succeed in school. We have high schools that provide Specialized Learning Programs for students who do well in school but nothing for students who will struggle once Mountain Secondary School is closed.

Some parents may feel their children can survive in a large school but many cannot. Due to anxiety, my child arrives later, leaves class a few minutes early to go to the next class and leaves the school building early as too many people all together moving around intimidates him. This is in a a school with fewer than 200 students. Can you imagine what it would be like for him in a school with over 1,000 students.

My child entered his second semester in Grade ten this month with 12 credits. I have seen his self esteem and advocacy skills build the past year and a half and that is directly related to the programming, caring teachers and environment at both Parkview and Mountain.

On the Board website we see "ALL STUDENTS ACHIEVING THEIR FULL POTENTIAL". If you want to stand behind those words then please show the students, their families and the community that this includes providing the environment they need in order to achieve their full potential at Mountain Secondary School.

You have the power to give a clear message to all that the HWDSB cares about students that struggle with mental health problems.

Please think about all the students you can help, not just the children of today but of the future, and do the right thing and support this motion.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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