There seems to be a never ending stream of questions coming out of the Halton School Board’s accommodation review. Families from all schools affected have been very vocal in their criticism and concern. We’ve followed the north Burlington part of this story since its beginning. Now with the Performance Accommodation Review committee in full swing, we turn our attention downtown.
Dania Thurman had been leading the charge for Central High School. “Central is not the problem,” she says. Thurman and her volunteers have worked round the clock with what little information they can get from the board to put together their case.
We did these maps that circle the 3.2 kilometre radius around every single school, and then we’ve taken each school out. When you take Aldershot out, there’s an entire community without a school. When you take central out, there’s an entire community without a school. When you take Nelson out, Bateman and Central cover it. When you take Bateman out Nelson covers it.
Their case is based firstly on simple geography. The board plans to split the students from Central between Nelson and Aldershot. Thurman says that the board has been quick to jump at these misinterpreted enrollment numbers. She says they claim Central has an enrollment under 600, when it is actually 624. But that number doesn’t include the nearly 270 grade 7s and 8s also using the facility, according to Thurman.
“The numbers they are using are old numbers. They never update them,” claims Thurman. She expresses frustration with the lack of continuity with the board’s information. “We presented this option to the PAR and the most frustrating thing is that the very next day they’re released the SIPs, drastically changing the information.”
SIPs or School Information Profiles are documents released by the board that indicate key statistics about a particular school. Statistics like enrollment that have led the board initiating the Performance Accommodation Review. The Director of Education and Board Trustees put forth a list of options with their recommendation of which option they should pursue. Option 19 recommends the closure of both Pearson and Central with an included re organization of Hayden’s catchment. Students from Central would be split between Nelson and Aldershot.
Thurman claims that if Central were to be closed Burlington’s most intensified neighbourhood would be without a School.. In an article we wrote earlier this month we spoke with two planners from the City of Burlington. Mary-Lou Tanner, Director of Planning and Building and Alison Enns, Senior Planner; they say that much of the future development is planned for south of the QEW. The city plans to develop its mobility hubs, like its downtown core. There are already a number of condos planned for that area.
Thurman says that the board is not taking into consideration the growing number of families moving into condos/apartments. This is a result of continually rising home prices in the city. “There isn’t really a working relationship there,” says Thurman of the disconnect between the Board and the City. Enns corroborates that statement in an earlier article commenting, “It’s difficult, we’re not really involved with the PARC process.”
Yet speaking in terms of intensification Thurman says that if the board were to use Brant Street as a dividing line they would actually be sending more students to Aldershot than Nelson. She claims this is due to that area being more intensifies. More families in apartments like Warwick Surrey, more distance for them to travel. “Sometimes you see these students walking to Central,” she says of their already difficult commute. With the excess distance between Central and the potential new destinations it is unknown how many of these students would qualify under the boards transportation guidelines.
Some may read this as a criticism of the Board and its practices. But Thurman insists that this is just trickle down politics. She says that the Ontario Government has a budget to balance and one of the ways they’re doing this is by promoting the ‘mega school’ idea. “We’re one of the most underfunded boards in Ontario, and we’re a growing board,” she recalls being said in a recent PARC meeting.
The Board and their accommodation practices are deeply under scrutiny at this time. They claim that that there are so many excess pupil spaces spread out between the schools and renewal costs are too high. Furthermore, Thurman was told that the original number for Central (1.85m) was wrong. The actual cost, 8.53m; that’s a 363% increase, according to the results of a report published in the gazette. Thurman believes that this cost could include repairs already completed; repairs like the ‘Take Back Your Seat’ campaign. Take Back Your Seat raised close to $100,000 to renovate the auditorium. Thurman likens the end result to the Performing Arts Centre.
Thurman has faith in Stuart Miller. “I think he’s been heavily involved. I think it’s very stressful for him, it’s not a pleasant situation. But I do believe him when he says he did not get into this to close schools.” Though the director has been heavily criticized she believes he will find the best solution.
It’s clear that the PAR process is far from over. We will work to bring you more on this as it comes.
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