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)
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:
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.