Special Report: Education

City, School Board Neglecting Dr Davey Student Needs

When prioritizing, both the City and School Board seem to place the needs of these kids last.

By Tanya Ritchie
Published April 11, 2016

On Friday, April 8, I attended a small meeting with Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) Superintendent Sue Dunlop, Wards 1 and 2 Trustee Christine Bingham, HWDSB staff, the school Principal, parents and others, about the grounds at Dr J Edgar Davey School. I have a daughter at the school, and I'm a member of the Parent Council.

Dr J Edgar Davey School (RTH file photo)
Dr J Edgar Davey School (RTH file photo)

I'm spectacularly unimpressed. I'm not enraged, though, because there's a sense that it's all fruitless and that the students are all just going to be squashed in the wheels of the big machine.

A few points:

1. Dr Davey's slide has been broken since at least November, and the reason it has not been fixed or replaced is because it's the school's responsibility to do so and we simply cannot afford it.

2. We have 90+ parking spots on site for a staff of approximately 50. Even with extra spaces for the Beasley community centre (10?) and potential for additional staff (maybe 10 more?), that's tons of excess parking.

3. In preparation for the Beasley park renovation starting in autumn and taking maybe 18 months to complete, a fence on the western edge of the school was moved to improve sight lines and access to a fire hydrant.

City staff insisted it was only fair to reclaim the "road allowance" where the former Elgin Street would be, if it wasn't park land. Thus the school lost about 50 square metres (I don't have an exact measurement) and in return we got a gate in the fence so that kids can use the park.

In a meeting last year with Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr, City staff and School Board staff, we were also promised the playground would take over part of the parking lot. But:

4. We won't be using the park, except for organized sports like athletics and soccer. I asked, "What about kids who just want to be able to be under a tree, or stand on grass?" Flat answer: "No." This is due to perceived - not necessarily actual - risk and staffing concerns.

These risks and concerns are to do with the safety of the park itself, teachers doing extra yard supervision hours, sight lines, etc. For these reasons, the School Board is rolling back park access for schools in other parts of the city, too.

5. We can't annex the parking lot for a playground because it turns out that Hydro One, the electrical behemoth, will be taking over half of our parking lot - probably in autumn, probably for four or five years - to renovate their neighbouring substation. We can't do anything until they're finished.

Exactly when the City and/or the School Board signed off on this and why they feel it's acceptable is something that we can't get a really clear answer on. But the hydro giant is sufficiently arrogant that they haven't even finalized a building permit.

6. Questions about Hydro One moving their substation elsewhere were met with phrases like, "financially prohibitive" and "impossible" and the idea of fighting them was considered an impossibility because they're huge and rich (a "billion-dollar war chest" was mentioned in answer to suggestions that the community would oppose the renovations) and we can't even afford to replace a slide.

7. During the hydro renovations, teachers are concerned about their safety in walking from the food bank parking lot one block away, on Cannon Street East at Ferguson, to the school. About 95 percent of Dr Davey's approximately 600 students walk to school along these horribly unsafe streets. According to Principal Smith, as many as eight have been struck by cars. Superintendent Dunlop was confident that these safety concerns would be swiftly addressed by the City.

8. We cannot increase the kids' recreational area using the southern edge of the school, the eastern edge, or even the roof, due to cost, staffing and safety concerns. The current yard has no green space and is significantly smaller than the area required for such a large number of students.

The standard response to these sorts of concerns is that Dr Davey is not alone among downtown schools in having inadequate outdoor space. This is true, but it doesn't excuse the situation - especially given the inappropriate waste of usable space, currently taken up by the Hydro substation and the unnecessarily large parking lot.

Several neighbourhood partners have expressed a lot of interest in the substation moving to one of the many vacant, city-owned lands in the vicinity, and we are currently attempting, with the help of Councillor Farr, to get a community meeting on the subject.

But at present, it seems very much like Dr Davey kids get nothing: no safety, no improvements, no hope of improvement, and nobody cares. When prioritizing, both the City and School Board seem to place the needs of these kids last.

Tanya Ritchie is an immigrant who moved to Hamilton ten years ago and lives in Ward 3. She is the co-owner of Hamilton Guest House, Hamilton's only backpackers' hostel.

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By NikatNite (anonymous) | Posted April 11, 2016 at 11:00:39

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 11, 2016 at 11:12:09 in reply to Comment 117616

Wait, there are people in the BNA who don't even live there? Who the dickens has time in their lives to participate in a neighbourhood association for a neighbourhood they don't live in?

I get that there might be wealthier people in BNA since with land values climbing everywhere, Beasley might look like a good option to those who would have never considered it before. Are they investors who just own property there?

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By BeasleyFireworksTechnician (anonymous) | Posted April 11, 2016 at 11:32:05

NikAtNite: You are welcome to attend a BNA meeting and see that there is very little truth in your statement. BNA members are people with a wide range of incomes, as both renters and owners.

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By NikatNite (anonymous) | Posted April 11, 2016 at 12:20:02

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By Streeter (registered) | Posted April 11, 2016 at 12:51:35

Maybe you should come to a BNA meeting and find out the truth...

I know of BNA members with children at Dr.Davey and some are working with others who do not even have children, let alone at Davey, to bring some free additional programming to the students.

I know of BNA members who are well off and live in the neighbourhood, but volunteer their time helping others in the neighbourhood.

I know of BNA members who are not well off and who no longer live in the neighbourhood and come to help out.

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By Streeter (registered) | Posted April 11, 2016 at 12:57:36

Also NikatNite, FYI - there is no additional cost for French Immersion and presumably if these people were so wealthy they would just move to those areas.

I think if you are upset about these issues at Dr. Davey (and I think you would be right to be concerned about some of them), you should attend a BNA meeting and bring them forward, so that perhaps you can get some support behind solving them.

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By kevinlove (registered) | Posted April 11, 2016 at 12:58:13

A few comments:

4-5 years for a Hydro substation renovation? That seems a bit long of a time-frame. If true, I suspect that this is not being driven by construction considerations, but by bureaucratic and budget considerations. In other words, they will build it as money becomes available.

Children can't use the park? Just to stand of the grass or lie down under a tree? Bizarre. When I was a kid cue the Four Yorkshireman during recess I went all over the place. Yes, into the park adjacent to the school grounds. To deny that to children not only severely impairs their quality of life, but produces adults who have never had that experience of exploring discovering, creating and playing on their own.

Yikes! I don't want my children to live in a world dominated by those kinds of adults.

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By jorvay (registered) | Posted April 11, 2016 at 12:59:08 in reply to Comment 117624

The last meeting I went to before moving to a different community a couple of years ago was the AGM where the new executive was being elected. The hardest part was finding people who were willing and able to take on the various roles. I don't think it's changed that much in the last two years, so I'd suggest running for an exec. position or finding someone who shares your views to do so. There's lots of room to help guide the BNA.

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By Streeter (registered) | Posted April 11, 2016 at 12:59:48 in reply to Comment 117617

Most BNA members I know that no longer live there are due to changing circumstances and are not investors. Some can no longer afford the rent or have personal reasons to rent elsewhere. Some have moved to just outside the neighbourhood to get a home that fits their family needs. There are a host of reasons some may no longer live in the neighbourhood, but they still care. I don't know of anyone on the BNA who is merely an investor or who lives more than a neighbourhood away and the vast majority live in Beasley (probably all have lived there at one point).

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted April 11, 2016 at 13:18:12

teachers are concerned about their safety in walking from the food bank parking lot one block away, on Cannon Street East at Ferguson, to the school. About 95 percent of Dr Davey's approximately 600 students walk to school along these horribly unsafe streets.

I'd like to think that this is not the first time that the grown-up staff at the school have expressed any concerns about the safety o this route - because on the face of it, it hearing the teachers complain about walking along the same stretch that most of the kids already use is a bit eyebrow cocking.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted April 11, 2016 at 13:24:38

about their safety in walking from the food bank parking lot one block away, on Cannon Street East at Ferguson, to the school.

Ok - I just read this again. And then I looked at the map.

We're talking about one block of bricked street with stop signs at either end. I bike this route often as it takes me between the Cannon bike lanes and the International Village. I am really surprised to hear that adults are worried about their safety when walking for a block on a sidewalk separated by parking and a verge from a single lane of traffic in each direction.

What am I missing?

Comment edited by moylek on 2016-04-11 13:31:32

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By TDR (registered) - website | Posted April 11, 2016 at 14:10:32 in reply to Comment 117627

According to Jason Farr and to the HWDSB, the extended period of time is because the substation is being completely rebuilt.

If you don't believe me, ask the good Councillor, or Lyndon George from Andrea Horwath's office.

I believe that this is an ideal opportunity for all those involved in the community to fight to have this dangerous piece of infrastructure removed from a recreational area.

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By TDR (registered) - website | Posted April 11, 2016 at 14:13:26 in reply to Comment 117631

Yeah, my exact response in the meeting was "cry me a river."

I have a great deal of respect for all the teachers I know at Davey but if they're scared (as grown adults) to walk a block, they need to speak up on behalf of the students.

This is the perception of the area being unsafe, which adds to the unwillingness of students, parents and staff to use the park.

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By TDR (registered) - website | Posted April 11, 2016 at 14:18:11 in reply to Comment 117626

I think everyone should be concerned about all these issues, and fortunately several members of the BNA are already very much involved in the Hydro One issue.

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted April 11, 2016 at 17:00:06

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By TDR (registered) - website | Posted April 11, 2016 at 17:05:52 in reply to Comment 117644

Nice attitude. Effectively, the money raised by the parent council comes from the parents of students of Dr Davey. We're not, as a general rule, wealthy. And slides are perhaps more expensive than you realize. I believe the money will ultimately come from Rotary. Don't spit on us because we're poor.

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By Screenname (anonymous) | Posted April 11, 2016 at 18:32:51 in reply to Comment 117644

Jim, how much have you personally donated towards this slide? I don't think throwing internet stones is getting it accomplished any faster...

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted April 12, 2016 at 04:54:54 in reply to Comment 117647

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 12, 2016 at 08:46:57 in reply to Comment 117644

I'd think that a working slide at a children's school is what we pay tax dollars for.

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By orangemike (registered) | Posted April 12, 2016 at 09:19:39 in reply to Comment 117648

no one believes you little man. the list of things you said you did when you didnt and the list of things you said you would do and didnt is legendary. are you the jim that was asked/told to leave your sherman neighbourhood association cause of your intolerant attitudes and ignorant behaviour?

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted April 12, 2016 at 09:37:42 in reply to Comment 117651

Don't you know? It is much more important to pay $18 million for a car road to a future ghost town on hwy #6. That means no money for slides and a lot of other things that are only for children and other unimportant people.

Comment edited by KevinLove on 2016-04-12 09:37:58

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted April 12, 2016 at 09:51:15 in reply to Comment 117653

This guy has psychological issues. Best not to engage...

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By Ghost Town (anonymous) | Posted April 12, 2016 at 10:26:32 in reply to Comment 117655

Lost credibility on the ghost town

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By TDR (registered) - website | Posted April 12, 2016 at 17:19:20

Update: according to Sue Dunlop, the slide is due to be fixed this Friday, April 15, at HWDSB expense.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted April 12, 2016 at 18:08:44 in reply to Comment 117655

Kev, I thought roads are for all vehicles? Isn't that what you rant about on here fairly often?

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted April 14, 2016 at 04:55:13 in reply to Comment 117653

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By Core-b (registered) | Posted April 14, 2016 at 18:50:11

Glad to hear that the slide is getting fixed. In spite of the current issues, I think that there is at least hope for the future for the kids to get to school safe and use the park someday. Not ideal though. This brings to mind the situation at St. Patrick's School. Their playground is asphalt with no green anywhere. And as for getting to school safely, they have crossing guards but the school is surrounded by urban expressways (Main, King, and Victoria) with speeding cars and large trucks. Even more surprising is that there are no school zone warning lights and speed reductions during school hours (not that anybody would slow down anyway!). I don't see much improvement here in the future.

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By orangemike (registered) | Posted April 14, 2016 at 20:17:28 in reply to Comment 117656

yes, i see what you mean. its sad when people turn out like that. even if he asked for help it would be hard to get what with the waiting lists and all. he should still try though.

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By Alumni (anonymous) | Posted April 14, 2016 at 20:18:32 in reply to Comment 117678

I went to St. Pats in the early 70's. Same as it is today except the school is newer now. In my class of about 60 kids we have at least 5 doctors, 5 lawyers, one architect I know of. One pro football player. Two US college football players. at least two Kingston Pen survivors and numerous scallywags who ahve spend a lot of time at the Hamilton jail. A bunch of teachers. No one was killed by a car. We dodged traffic. Farted about in every alley. Played football and Hockey at Eastwood and walked all the way up Vitoria one way without complaint when traffic was way busier than it is now.

You guys are a bunch of whiners.

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By Thanks for visiting (anonymous) | Posted April 15, 2016 at 18:02:28 in reply to Comment 117680

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By PTSD (anonymous) | Posted April 15, 2016 at 18:08:23 in reply to Comment 117680

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By menobelieve (anonymous) | Posted April 15, 2016 at 18:14:01 in reply to Comment 117680

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