A bus ride turns a five-year-old Kindergarten student into a commuter. This is a student who would have otherwise walked to their local community elementary school.
By John-Paul Danko
Published October 08, 2013
The Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) is currently scheduled to close Queensdale, Eastmount Park and Linden Park public elementary schools by the end of this year.
The board claims that there is excess capacity of up to 1000 spots within the existing central mountain elementary school system, necessitating the closures. All of the planned closures are small, community-based elementary schools.
Students from the closed schools will be consolidated at the only remaining central mountain schools, mainly George L. Armstrong and Franklin Road.
At the October 2 central mountain Accommodation Review Committee (ARC) meeting, the board outlined their plans for their ideal elementary school. These include:
Classroom in Queensdale School
At my local community school, Queensdale, we have zero bussing. Except for a small cohort of hearing impaired kids who have been coming to Queensdale for special programming since the 1960s, not one student at Queensdale is brought in by school bus or city bus.
In contrast, the vast majority of students displaced by the planned closures will be bussed to school - or the more likely scenario, dropped off by car.
Even a short bus ride turns a five-year-old Kindergarten student into a commuter. This is a student who would have otherwise walked to their local community elementary school.
Queensdale, Eastmount Park and Linden Park are the only three schools on the central mountain that do not currently have full-day kindergarten.
Coincidentally, these are the exact schools that the board is now using low enrolment projections to justify closing by the end of the year - so it is not much of a leap to suggest that they were set up to fail.
Full-day kindergarten saves parents thousands of dollars per child per year on daycare. Given the choice between one of the three schools slated for closure that don't have full-day kindergarten and an alternate school - such as a local separate school that has had full-day kindergarten for the past few years - where do you think most parents would choose to send their kids?
Lockers at Queensdale School
The communities affected by the Board's planned central mountain elementary school closures are currently a vibrant mix of seniors, Baby Boomers and young families. Anyone living on the central mountain can tell you anecdotally that their communities are evolving as aging seniors move out and young families move in.
Interestingly, most of the young families moving to the central mountain move here precisely because they want to live in a walkable community with a local school.
When a new family moves into an established neighbourhood, they bring new investment dollars and serve to rejuvenate the entire community. This is an emerging trend that is common across North America - yet is ignored by the board's long term enrolment projections.
Classroom in Queensdale School
As Hamilton transitions away from being an industrial city and into an information, healthcare and education economy, there are three major employers poised to drive future growth to the north-central mountain.
On top of that, the Upper James corridor and Concession Street are the two areas of the central mountain primed for massive infill redevelopment.
The bottom line is that the schools scheduled to close are in the exact communities poised for significant future demand by young families - but that is not taken into account by the Board.
Closeup: Queensdale School was built in 1948
If your vision for the central mountain does not include forcing elementary school children to be little commuters in training, if you don't want your kids forced into a big box school, if you see a renaissance in your local, walkable community and want that trend to continue - the time to act is now!
The first public Central Mountain Accommodation Review Committee meeting is tonight - October 8, 2013, 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM at:
Cardinal Heights Elementary School
70 Bobolink Road
Please come to support your local community school!
Including the planned central mountain elementary school closures, the eight high schools currently scheduled to close and properties currently declared surplus and/or for sale, since 1998 the HWDSB will have shut down FIFTY TWO schools!
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