S.O.S. Hamilton

By Matt Jelly
Published June 18, 2012

Join us for a peaceful protest against School Closures this coming Tuesday, June 19, starting at 5 pm at 100 Main Street West. Please bring a sign, as well as a non-perishable food item for donation to local food banks.

This is an emergency broadcast: S.O.S. Save Our Schools.

Recently, our public school board voted to close eight high schools: Sir John A Macdonald, Barton, Delta, Parkside, Hill Park, Parkview, Mountain, Highland.

50 acres of public green space could be sold off for development.

These eight high schools will be replaced by only three new schools: one in the lower city, one south of the Linc, and one in Dundas.

The Board has also voted to close King George Elementary and Prince Philip Elementary. More elementary closures are on the way.

We moved heaven and earth to save a football team. What about these teams?

100 Main Street West will be demolished by McMaster. The Board rejected a proposal to locate a new headquarters in the Beasley Neighoburhood, where the $31 million development could have been leveraged to clean up a contaminated brownfield site: the Cannon Knitting Mills, built in 1854.

Instead, the Board will demolish Crestwood School. Seven acres of greenspace will become 480 parking spots.

We're spending $1.5 billion on the Pan Am Games. We're spending $140 million on a new stadium. But we're closing schools in the same neighbourhoods the Province calls "Places To Grow".

We're closing schools in a city that aspires to be "The Best Place to Raise a Child."

Schools are at the heart of our urban neighbourhoods. They serve as our community centres and parkland. They are a part of our shared civic identity.

This plan is wasteful, short-sighted, inconsistent with Provincial policy, bad for neighbourhoods. This plan is bad for Hamilton.

Did you vote for this?

Join us in peaceful protest this Tuesday, June 19, starting at 5:00 PM, 100 Main Street West. Bring a sign, and please bring a non-perishable food item for donation to local food banks.

Please contact your minister of education:

Please contact your MPP:,,,

We want schools we can walk to. We want intensification, not urban sprawl. We want reinvestment, not consolidation. We want promises to mean something.

Jelly is a local artist, graphic designer and map maker living in Downtown Hamilton, Ontario in the Central Neighbourhood. Matt is an advocate for built heritage, toxic waste eradication and the revitalization of downtown Hamilton.


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By Irony (anonymous) | Posted June 18, 2012 at 09:19:57

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By theOther (registered) | Posted June 18, 2012 at 20:37:01 in reply to Comment 78615

Don't be afraid, Irony: Back in the day when I attended high school, many students were to be found occupying the inner rooms of the buildings, often for substantial portions of the day. I think that if you walked through the door, you'd find that the kids are alright.

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By troll fail (anonymous) | Posted June 18, 2012 at 09:28:01 in reply to Comment 78615

Lets try and think of a few reasons why Matt didn't hang around a bunch of schools taking pictures of children, shall we.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 18, 2012 at 09:52:28

A little offtopic, but I hadn't seen the Parkview Panthers logo before.

Does anybody else recognize it?

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By MattJelly (registered) - website | Posted June 18, 2012 at 10:27:15 in reply to Comment 78619

Parkview Panthers HO!

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted June 18, 2012 at 11:04:50

Can we provide a link to the 'Save' Facebook pages for the schools above? I think it would be helpful to know that people care about these schools.

Save Parkview Don't Close Barton Save Delta Save Prince Phillip Save Crestwood Petition Save Sherwood Secondary - no longer on the chopping block but it was and by the numbers we get an idea of perhaps how we can save other schools and be a voice for their closures.

Matt likely has a more comprehensive list as he has posted the link to this rally on all that I am a member of.

Comment edited by lawrence on 2012-06-18 12:50:49

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By highwater (registered) | Posted June 18, 2012 at 14:37:49 in reply to Comment 78625

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By TnT (registered) | Posted June 19, 2012 at 07:30:51

Haunting. Not one school in Ward 2 or 3? In what world does that resonate? There seems to be no recourse for this. No oversight. No recall. This really stinks.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted June 19, 2012 at 22:26:30 in reply to Comment 78667

Just want to clarify: I believe you mean not one high school in ward 2 or 3; there's several elementary schools in these wards.

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By Ruffa Pakarat Puki (anonymous) | Posted June 19, 2012 at 13:06:08

What's the name of the song?

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted June 19, 2012 at 14:06:26

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By DanJelly (registered) | Posted June 20, 2012 at 01:03:57 in reply to Comment 78679

The School board insists that the Ministry will not provide full funding to under-capacity schools. That's a problem. Why is the only solution to close schools BEFORE redrawing catchments? We have under-capacity schools next to over-capacity schools.

Sir John A's catchment ends at Queen Street, so students living on Locke street North (for example) have to walk 20-30 minutes to get to Westdale when they could be walking 5 minutes to Sir John A. Redrawing the catchment to include the area between Queen St. and the 403 would mitigate the problem.

Churchill is over capacity, but if you look at its catchment it could be redrawn so more students are diverted to the under-capacity Delta without adding a significant travel burden to the students.

Neither of these changes would be as disruptive to students compared to closing their local school and forcing hundreds to commute across the city. Would it not make more sense to even out the populations until we can come up with a better long-term strategy that takes students, facilities and neighbourhoods into account? Once the schools are closed, we won't get them back.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted June 20, 2012 at 10:08:53 in reply to Comment 78705

Seems too easy Dan but I wonder if this was discussed?

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By DanJelly (registered) | Posted June 21, 2012 at 00:06:11 in reply to Comment 78722

They will be addressing catchments in the upcoming year, so they acknowledge that it's an issue, but they didn't want to do this step BEFORE closing schools.

As for the ARC discussions, since the school pairs each fall in different ARCS, there was no option to look at this. Westdale is in the West ARC, Sir John A and Delta are in the North ARC, and Churchill is in the East ARC. They didn't seem to want to cross ARC boundaries to look for solutions. In fairness, one Trustee, Todd White, did bring this up in a meeting but it fell on deaf ears.

The process was flawed from the beginning.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted June 21, 2012 at 09:25:28 in reply to Comment 78743

Another issue all grouped into this as well is French Immersion. I sent a letter of concern regarding the switch from SK to grade one because I was amazed at how well my 5 year old was catching on to french. I wasn't sure what to expect and now the problem is that my youngest is just about to enter JK and Cunningham and Glenn Echo (maybe all of them), are no longer taking out of catchment english children.

This means to avoid two separate schools quite a distance apart (Glenn Echo would be their new catchment French Immersion but it's a long way still from where the girls primary address will be), both will now attend English only school. My oldest will never be in french immersion again I assume because two years off and trying to pick up in grade three when my youngest would be able to start in grade 1, is too far gone.

I wonder why French Immersion is not offered in all schools? What is really involved/required to make this happen? Obviously it must be expensive seeing as though they have cancelled SK Immersion.

I also wonder why they have never brought the French Immersion programs to a lower city east end school? Glendale for instance? Why do all lower city kids have to travel across town to Westdale?

I think these French Immersion changes were done too fast. One of my suggestions to the Trustees when they were proposing moving from SK to grade one for FI, was to figure an average age between the eldest siblings in SK Immersion and their younger siblings, to enable their brothers and sisters the ability to attend the same schools in English for JK.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted June 25, 2012 at 10:29:04 in reply to Comment 78747

One of the problems is simply a lack of qualified teachers. There just aren't that many good teachers who are also fluently bilingual, to meet the growing demand for FI. Without qualified bilingual teachers, the quality of the program suffers, so they can't really expand until they deal with that issue.

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By D. Shields (registered) | Posted June 22, 2012 at 22:32:31 in reply to Comment 78747

"Catchment" is a nice piece of red tape, often used to confuse the issue, & frustrate parents & students.

If you are prepared to transport your kids to the school of your/their choice by yourself, the 'catchment' issue often disappears. It seems to have more to do with busing than it does with actual enrollment & capacity of a given school.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted June 19, 2012 at 23:06:22 in reply to Comment 78679

Funny. We're constantly being told that the reason the trustees are closing schools willy-nilly is because they're all members of the NDP. Guess you didn't get the memo.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 19, 2012 at 22:56:32 in reply to Comment 78679

enrolment % is higher at Sir John A than Ancaster High. Yet the board wouldn't even allow Ancaster to be included in closure discussions. This has little to do with enrolment, and everything to do with politics and outdated population projection methods. A friend within the board told me 4 years ago that their HQ would end up near Limeridge Mall because that's where many staff live and want to be near....long before they started their process of searching for an HQ etc.... turns out he was right....and the decision was made at least back then, if not sooner. Not because of money, not because of enrolment ,but because "staff want to stroll Limeridge Mall on their lunch break" - that's a 4 year old quote.

Comment edited by jason on 2012-06-19 22:57:46

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted June 20, 2012 at 09:53:59 in reply to Comment 78699

If any school should be replaced, its Ancaster. That place is an under-utilized dump. I've been in a lot of schools in my day, but few can match the dank-ness of that one. Amazes me that there aren't concrete plans to replace that ASAP.

Given the population growth (rightly or wrongly), there's little question as to whether a highschool is required in that area.

Regardless, the focus should be on ensuring higher-risk neigbourhoods are well serviced by education and community activities. Going out of your way to close functioning facilities is a poor approach.

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By D. Shields (registered) | Posted June 22, 2012 at 22:37:07 in reply to Comment 78721

I agree! We have an opportunity for smaller classroom sizes, & smaller school populations which will give more attention, & assistance to each student. They seem quite prepared to throw this opportunity away!

Big Bucks in repairs & upgrades are going to Ancaster High.

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted June 23, 2012 at 11:05:09

Here is the link to an interesting interview Laura Babcock recently had with George Ross, real estate development lawyer for Donald Trump and a judge on The Apprentice television series, on her Chats from the Lair website. At about the 30:00 mark of the interview, Mr. Ross noted how impressed he was with the character exuded by some of the older buildings in Hamilton (he actually said that they give Hamilton more character than Toronto) and he underlined the importance of heritage preservation as part of the development process.

Unfortunately, the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board failed to understand the importance of heritage in its spate of recent decisions to close its downtown headquarters and several schools.

Comment edited by RenaissanceWatcher on 2012-06-23 11:44:45

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted June 28, 2012 at 08:18:25

Here is the link to a Hamilton Spectator article on June 27, 2012 by Teri Pecoskie titled "Funding uncertain for new high schools":

Ms. Pecoskie reports that "Education Minister Laurel Broten has hinted that the public school board's chances of receiving funding three new high schools are slim given the significant contributions made to Hamilton's educational infrastructure in recent years." Apparently, the HWDSB requires $80 Million from the province toward the $100 Million total estimated cost to build the three new secondary schools.

The HWDSB has already announced the closure of seven Hamilton secondary schools and expects to replace them with three new secondary schools. If the provincial funding does not come through to build all three of the new high schools as HWDSB has pre-planned, what will the HWDSB do? Build three smaller high schools? Shelve one of the three new high schools? If they choose the latter, which new high school will they shelve? And, if only two new high schools get built, will the HWDSB keep one or more of the seven "closed" secondary schools open? As that great baseball philosopher Yogi Berra once said, "It ain't over 'til it's over."

Comment edited by RenaissanceWatcher on 2012-06-28 08:23:24

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 28, 2012 at 08:38:52 in reply to Comment 78973

I can't understand why they don't do what they did with Central School: rent out part of the space to a paying third party to help cover the operating cost of the property until student populations increase again.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted June 28, 2012 at 11:19:03 in reply to Comment 78975

Actually, alot of their problems with empty seats could be solved by moving programs and shifting catchment areas, but then parents in all schools would start screaming - not just an engaged minority complaining about closures, who are handily portrayed as entitled whiners by a compliant media.

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By Gazetteer (anonymous) | Posted December 26, 2012 at 16:12:45

High schools targeted for closure generally experienced the biggest declines as the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board saw yet another drop in secondary enrolment this fall. Enrolment figures show there were 16,842 students at the board’s 18 high schools as of the end of October, nearly 400 fewer than the year before.

The drop was about 10 per cent bigger than expected and continues a steady decline that has seen secondary enrolment fall by more than 1,300 students in the past five years, the equivalent of a large high school. Only Westmount, Ancaster, Saltfleet, Glendale and Sir John A. Macdonald bucked the trend.

Elementary enrolment also fell by 190 students, to 30,882, but this was fewer than the 300 projected in a board budget submitted to the Ministry of Education, which allocates funding on a per-student basis. Overall elementary enrolment since 2008 has dropped by 1,012 students.

The latest figures come amid a plan to close seven high schools and build new ones on the south Mountain, in the lower city and potentially at Highland in Dundas.

“I think it shows we made the right decisions,” Board chair Tim Simmons said. “You’ve got to give credit to staff for giving us their best information and best advice through the (accommodation review) period.”

On the Mountain, Barton and Hill Park, set to close pending funding for a new school south of the Lincoln Alexander Parkway, lost 77 and 46 students, respectively, and have seen their enrolment drop by about 25 per cent since 2008. Barton now has 698 students and Hill Park 738. Enrolment at Mountain vocational school, also on the closure list, held steady at 174 students. But that’s still nearly 100 fewer students than five years ago. Of those remaining open, MacNab’s enrolment dropped slightly to 874, while Sherwood’s fell by 104 – to 1,093, about six per cent below that in 2008.

Westmount, which offers self-paced learning to students across the system, saw enrolment jump by 60 to 1,490– the second highest in the board– mirroring a trend that has seen an increase of 167 students over the past five years. Saltfleet also added 27 students despite already being overcapacity. Designed for 976 students, the upper Stoney Creek school’s enrolment is now 1,215.

In the city’s west end, Parkside saw the biggest enrolment drop at 77 students. Targeted for closure, the Dundas school’s 446 students are the fewest of any non-vocational high school and 30 per cent fewer than five years ago. Enrolment at Highland, Westdale and Waterdown remained relatively stable, while Ancaster’s enrolment rose by 47 students to 1,058, up nearly five per cent.

In the lower city, Glendale added 23 students and Sir John A Macdonald one. The latter’s student population of 1,168 is just 14 fewer than five years ago. Macdonald is targeted for closure, as are Delta and Parkview, which suffered the biggest percentage drops in enrolment this fall and since 2008. Delta’s 704 students are 239 fewer than five years ago.

The closure plan is predicated on getting funding for a new school in a central location that would serve students from all three schools. Simmons said the board is still awaiting word from the province on that front.

“We’re not hearing a lot right now from the ministry,” he said.

Orchard Park’s enrolment dropped by 42 to 1,103, while Sir Winston Churchill’s declined by 59 to 1,082. Enrolment at both is down about 10 per cent from five years ago.

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