Finding the pluses in the closing of two high schools - there are some.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

June 8th, 2017



There were no happy faces at the Halton District School Board offices this morning.

miller-stuart-onlineThe Director of Education had to look away during part of our interview with him this morning – the last nine months have been hard and “there were decisions to be made that were necessary” said Miller.

Stuart Miller wasn’t having all that good a day. He said he didn’t sleep all that well when he got home. The Board staff met for a short period of time after the marathon meeting; they knew what had to be done and for them the hard work had just begun.

Miller was appointed the Director of Education in October of 2015. At the time he was the Associate Director of Education and had been with the HDSB for all of his career except for a period of time when her served as a volunteer overseas

He started as a classroom teacher and worked his way up the ladder. He was at one point the vice principal of a school that he came to realize had to be closed – Lester B. Pearson high school which had more than 1000 students when he was there.

Miller with students Mar 7-17During his interview for the job he was asked by the trustees that hired him what the really pressing issues were and “I told them at the time that there were serious problems with the way French Immersion was being handled and that a Program Accommodation Review was necessary because at the time there were more than 1500 empty classroom seats in the seven Burlington high schools.

Miller’s job was to solve those problems. He produced a staff report with a recommendation that called for the closing of Central high school and Lester B. Pearson high school. That report called for a Secondary school Program Accommodation Review (PAR).

Miller prep at CentralThe recommendation was accepted and the PAR began in October of 2016. The decision to hold the PAR was made by the trustees and it was evident to the trustees then that school closures were a very real possibility – but the general public was not forewarned.

The creation of a PAR means the creation of a PARC a committee that looks into all the options and serves as the official channel between the Board and the parents. Each school nominated one parent and the Board staff selected an additional parent from those who expressed an interest in serving. Those 14 people had no idea what they had gotten themselves into.

The met on seven different occasions for meetings that went well into the night. As a group they were not able to arrive at a consensus on any one recommendation. They sent five back to staff and said these were worth additional thinking.

Central, Pearson and Bateman were now on the recommended list. Not closing any of the schools was also on the list.

With Central and Bateman recommended for closure it was clear that there was a serious battle shaping up – both schools would not be closed – it was one or the other.

After hours of debate the trustees decided on closing Bateman and Pearson – but moving the Bateman closing to 2020.

With the decisions made the work of healing the hurt that parents were feeling and assuring them that the promises made were real and would be delivered had to begin.

Board staff did not visit the schools this morning. “It was time for the school principals to begin working with their staff and prepare for the changes that were going to take place” said Miller.

Miller knows people are hurting “this isn’t what I got into education to do” he said. And he adds that while right now the attention is on the school closings there were some very positive decisions made. There are now going to be two composite school in the city – one in the North –M.M. Robinson and Nelson high in the south.

Composite high schools are by their very nature big enrollment schools. They are there to offer every program available in the Halton system. “We wanted every student to attend a high school in their part of the city” they won’t necessarily be walkable to schools but they won’t be on the other side of the city either.

Composite high school will offer every possible program – for those in the Community Pathway programs to those in the International Baccalaureate Program.

When the PAR process began we weren’t thinking about the creation of composite schools – they will become a very strong part of the high school set up in Burlington, said Miller

Hammil + MillerThere will also be a “magnet” school, an awkward word for a school with a specific purpose that the Gazette will report on in more detail later.

There is another change in the wind and that is the change that will take place at Nelson high school. A name change is a distinct possibility; that may be the price the Bateman parents demand for losing their school.

More to the point though is the cultural change at Nelson will undergo.

The students from Bateman are both culturally and socially much different than what Nelson is today. The influx of these students is going to have a huge impact on the current Nelson culture.

The big thinkers on the Board staff think this merging of cultures is a good thing and will result in a stronger more diverse school. They had better be right. It is going to take an exceptional principal to make that happen.

Stuart MillerOur interview was in the forenoon – for Stuart Miller it was going to be a sad, reflective day. A decision that had to be made had been made – his task now was to make sure the healing took place and that the near term result was a parent community that was able to come together and make the best of what was ahead of them.

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Handling the transition of several hundred special needs students a huge challenge

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

June 8th, 2017



The decision has been made – the Board of Education will close two of the seven high schools in the city.

Bateman - crowd sceneParents at Bateman high school, where there are hundreds of students who are described as emotionally at risk and are going to need help adjusting to a significant change in their lives, have been told by Board staff that they are prepared to hold one-on-one meetings with parents to craft a transition plan for each student as they prepare to move from a school that is to be closed to a school some of them don’t even know exists.

During the debate leading up to the decision to close the schools many parents made it clear that they did not trust the school to do what was best for their children

Mark Zonneveld, the Superintendent of Education who will oversee the transition process, will have his hands full not only getting the job done but overcoming the fear and distrust that parents have now.

portrait of Mark Zonneveld

Mark Zonneveld

Most people in Burlington aren’t aware of the student at Bateman who deal with serious and severe disadvantages. The lives of those families are much different than the lives of other families. The focus is on the child and the needs – which are beyond the understanding of most families and are present every minute of every day. That is not to even suggest that other parents do not worry about how their children grow and become productive in the community.

For those special needs students – it is just a lot different.

These are children who are deeply loved and appreciated who have been in a school that fully understands their needs and has found ways to overcome problems.

The lives of those students are going to go through significant disruption – which Bateman parents saw as totally unnecessary – but that decision has been made.

The measure of a society is often determined by how it takes care of its weakest.

Burlington is about to learn just how good it is at taking care of those who need more care than most.

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Culture clashes between two high schools in Burlington get discussed at Board of Education meeting.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

June 8th, 2017



With the decision to close Bateman high school a done deal, albeit a decision that won’t get implemented until 2020, finding a way to make the culture at Nelson at least hospitable to the students arriving from Bateman becomes very relevant.

While less than two km apart the culture of the two schools is significantly different.

portrait of Joanna Oliver

Oakville trustee Joanna Oliver

Joanna Oliver, an Oakville trustee asked a question last night that put an uncomfortable issue on the table where it couldn’t be ignored.

“The community has shared with us concerns about transitions and safe and welcoming school environments” said Oliver. “ I would like to reflect on the comments made about the unaccepting culture at Nelson.

“Such comments have been made in various delegations and shared with us by email. They have almost assumed a life of their own and that’s one of a threat and fear” on the part of the students at Bateman who will be transferred to Nelson.

“I feel that staying silent on this matter helps to potentially, though inadvertently protect such a culture and it does a huge disservice to the Nelson students who are inclusive, compassionate and adaptable”, said Oliver.

She added: “Given HDSB’s efforts at anti-bullying and fostering inclusive and safe school environments – I find it hard to believe that staff and other students at Nelson would actively protect a culture of intolerance.

Nelson High crest

Nelson high school – sen by many as the premier high school in the city, will now see a $12 million addition to its facilities and an influx of students that will, over time, change the culture of the school.

“Unfortunately, there may always be individuals who are not accepting and who do engage in various forms of bullying but they are not the majority.”

While there were many mentions of a rude environment awaiting the students from Bateman at Nelson, with Social Media crawling with comments that would stun many parents, Director of Education Stuart Miller said the Board had not been able to identify the kind of behaviour that was being talked about.

It is a concern – how it gets handled is what bothers parents who have students in the Community Pathways Program.

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Board of Education decides to close two of the city's seven high schools. Pearson will close in June 2018; Bateman in 2020.

News 100 blackBy Pepper Parr

June 8th, 2017



In a meeting that went to past midnight the Halton District School Board decided to go along with the recommendation made earlier in the year by Director of Education Stuart Miller, to close two of the city’s seven high schools.


Intended to be a small school that served the community, Pearson went from a one time enrollment of more than 1000 to just several hundred.

Lester B. Pearson will see its last student in June of 2018,  Bateman high school will close much later – in 2020, with their students going in a number of different directions.

The lengthy meeting got seriously tangled up with one procedural motion bumping into another as trustee Amy Collard did everything she could to get her motion to keep Bateman high school open on the table.

The Board had both their legal counsel and a parliamentarian taking part to explain to the trustees what they could do and not do based on their bylaw.

Trustee Reynolds seem as determined to keep a motion to merge Bateman with Nelson off the table as trustee Collard was to keep it on.

Bateman - crowd scene

Bateman parents did everything they could to save their school; what they could not change was the declining enrollment in high school south of the QEW.

The Board decision, after hours of wrangling, was to end the life of Bateman high school and send its students in a number of different directions.

Throughout the debate, the major issue the board faced, that of declining enrollment, just didn’t find a solution. There are far too many empty seats in the classrooms south of the QEW.

Bateman parents fought very hard to keep their school open and were served very well by their trustee – but the hard fact of declining enrollment just could not be overcome.

There is considerable distrust amongst the Bateman parents that the interests of their children will not be as well served when they get to Nelson high school where many of them will move to eventually.

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School board trustees will start the process of deciding which, if any, schools they want to close in Burlington. Closing none at this point is the best option for everyone.

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

June 7th, 2017


They will convene at 7:00 pm this evening and begin the debate on what they as trustees think is best for the citizens of Burlington.

The 11 Halton District School Board trustees have been working through a process that began last October.

They decided then that they should create a Program Accommodation committee to consider the recommendation from the Director of Education that some of the Burlington high schools be closed. Which schools was the issue.

Each high school in Burlington nominated a parent to serve on the Program Accommodation Review Committee and the Board selected one person from a list of people who expressed an interest in serving on that committee.

The PARC met on seven occasion to review the 19 possible options Board staff had prepared. The Director of Education felt that the best option was to close Central high school of the Lester B. Pearson high school.

The PARC was not able to arrive at a consensus but they did narrow down the 30+ options they had in front of them down to five.

One was to close Central and Pearson; another to close Bateman and Pearson, another to not close any schools.

For reasons that will take some time to determine, the PARC members chose to fight with each other to ensure their school was not closed rather than work as a collective and ask the Board to provide more information.

The information given to the PARC members kept changing – enrollment numbers were suspect from the beginning and the source of some of the information was never all that clear.

For the most part every school was well represented at the PARC level. The PARC members were not served very well by Board staff or by the firm brought in to do research and facilitation.

The public that took part in the process grumbled throughout. The Central high school parents were able to organize very effectively from the moment the initial recommendation was on the table.

The second recommendation took Central off the table and replaced it with Bateman high school who then had to scramble to get their story out.

Parents were livid when they learned that the views of the classroom teachers would not be available and that any response from the high school students was going to be very limited.

With the PARC disbanded – it was time for public delegations. There were 51 of those – which Bateman used very effectively to get their story out.

The delegations were followed by an ”information” meeting during which the trustees had ample opportunity to ask questions – there were few questions that could be seen as digging very deeply.

The interesting part was that it took two meetings to get through all the question asking. Of note – there was just the one trustee who came forward with alternatives.

That is all water under the bridge. Even though there has been some last m8inute data that is very relevant – it will be up to the trustees to put forward motions, debate them, revise them and then vote on them.
Will we know Thursday morning what is going to be done? We will know something.

Will the trustees take up the motion that trustee Collard is certainly going to put forward which is to merge Bateman and Nelson. Should that happen – and it isn’t a bad idea – what would the new two campus school be named? Is the Nelson community ready to give up their name? Don’t bet on that one.

Will the parents accept whatever decision is made or will they seek a Ministerial Review?

Given the serious problems with much of the data and the pace at which the community was forced to march to the beat of a drum beaten by Board staff, the best solution the Gazette arrives at it to not close any schools and to create a task force made up of parents for the most part who would put together a solution that meets the needs of every student current and future in the city.

Steve Smith and Tom Muir served the city very well with their consistent contributions to the process. Armstrong said “it’s amazing how many ideas are coming at the last minute …this process is flawed if for no other reason than there isn’t time to build a cohesive plan”

The Board of trustees have more than enough information to agree with that assessment – they should vote for option # 7 – don’t close any of the schools – and defer a decision for at least two years until there is better data available.

In the immediate future the trustees should direct Board staff to give Pearson high school the feeder schools they used to have and lessen the capacity overload at Hayden.

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PARC member produces data that suggests bigger schools are not better schools.

highschoolsBy Steve Armstrong

June 7th, 2017



Throughout the PARC process there was a continued refrain that larger schools enable more opportunities.

Eric who PARC

Steve Armstrong

What has been lacking is any concise quantification of this. I’ll share what I have been able to piece together from the data available.

One discussion point surrounded the issue of timetable conflicts. The premise being smaller schools have fewer sections available in combination with fewer course options.

The graph below represents the data from all high schools in Halton. On first viewing the downward trend as we go to the right indeed confirms the notion that larger schools have fewer timetable conflicts. I’ve indicated the overall conflict rates for each of the 4 municipalities on the left hand side.

Armstrong 1One question I asked, but never received an answer on, concerned the three schools circled at the bottom of the chart set out below.

What is it about those three schools, Blacklock, Oakville Trafalgar and Garth Webb that enables them to have such low conflict rates?

My suggestion is that you might be able to apply that knowledge within the rest of board and achieve dramatic improvements on this metric. Improvements that making schools larger alone will not achieve.

Focusing just on the seven schools in Burlington I’ve added a pair of trend lines to model the data points. The resulting equations create a model for predicting the outcome of various changes in enrollments.
Having such high R squared values (1.0 is perfect) simply means the equations do a very good job of fitting the data, and that enrollment explains most of the effect being modeled.

Armstrong 2

In use what the model predicts is that when looking at changes to enrollment at any school the outcome will fall on these dashed lines.

We can also clearly see that when enrollment is less than about 800 students the impact of enrollment changes is about 5% per 100 students. Above 800 that rate of improvement drops to 1% per 100 students.

As total enrollment grows the conflict rate is expected to drop from the current 23% down to about 20% without closing any schools.

The current recommendation to close two schools would result in the conflict rate dropping to about 16%. A number that would still be twice as high as observed in Oakville, despite heavily disrupting two communities.

Larger schools are also expected to have a greater number of course offerings, and as the next graph shows this is generally a true statement.

Armstrong 3The data presented was taken from the SIPs (School information profiles) provided to PARC members, and does NOT include online courses.

I’ve drawn in 2 dashed trend lines that are best fits to the data in two overlapping regions.

The blue curve very nicely models the course offerings for schools with under 800 students, and says there is a strong benefit of adding students. The slope tells us that for every 100 students added we would expect 14.9 more course offerings. Since the core courses are already included in the base amount for every school, these would be expanding the options for elective courses.

The orange line provides insight for schools over 600 in size. The effect of adding 100 students is a much smaller 1.78 courses. As an effort to improve on the accuracy I did take a stab at adding data I found for a couple of the other larger schools in Halton. The results did improve the R squared valued (indicating better predicting power), and lowered the benefit to a little over 1 course per 100 students. Since I couldn’t determine if that data was measured in the same way as what was provided by the Board I decided to stick with the known source information.

So, what does this model tell us?

It tells us that for a school to offer a good number of courses we need a critical mass of around 700 students.

For smaller schools, there is significant benefit in increasing the number of students. We would expect 15 new courses per 100 additional students, up to an enrollment of 700. Above critical mass there is a much smaller increase in course options, only 1.78 new courses per 100 new students.

This asymmetry becomes a useful tool when contemplating re balancing enrollments.

For instance: Suppose a boundary change was made between Nelson and Bateman which results in 100 students being relocated to Bateman. Bateman students would be expected to experience an increase of 15 new course offerings. The loss of 100 students at Nelson is predicted to result in loss of only 2 courses. In practice, if the LTAP predicted growth at Nelson of over 100 students by 2020 was instead directed to Bateman then Nelson students wouldn’t likely even see a reduction in course offerings, they just wouldn’t see any increase over what they presently have.

Likewise, suppose 400 students were redirected away from Hayden bringing todays enrolment down to 100% of capacity. Hayden students would see a reduction of only 8 courses, probably less. If Pearson were to receive 250 of those students then its course offering would rise by around 38, and Robinson could also add a number of courses, but given their high course count already may choose instead to lower timetable conflicts. Clearly bringing the overcrowding at Hayden under control by changing boundaries or moving programs would significantly improve all 3 schools.

By combining the perspectives provided by both the timetable conflict data and the course option information much more can be understood about enrollments over a much broader range then a simplistic less than 600 students, greater than 1000 student view of things.

Both perspectives indicate stronger benefits for increasing school enrollments up to around the 700‐800 range.

Below that critical mass the focus is on adding course options, above that point the focus is on adding more sections, which continues to reduce timetable conflict rates. This plateauing on the course options side is inevitable since the Ministry of education has a finite number of courses that can be offered.

With further work this modeling could be improved.

Related article:

Another example of where parent involvement made the difference.

Editor’s note: Steve Armstrong is an engineer.  He was a PAR Committee member representing students from Lester B. Pearson high school.  One wonders what the Board o Education Planning staff will do with this data.

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Back in the early 2000's parents figured out what was needed - the result was a merger of Brock with Lord Elgin to create Bateman. Why not take it a step further and merge Bateman with Nelson?

highschoolsBy Staff

June 6th, 2017



Stephen and Jennifer Beleck have lived in Burlington for 31 years. Of their three grown children, two graduated from Nelson and the third from Lord Elgin.

During their delegation to the Board of Education trustees recently they told the story of what happened to the high school one of their children was attending.

“In 2001-2002 the Lord Elgin high school parent council was faced with school closures in Halton. It was apparent that a number of High Schools below the QEW were being considered for closure.

“After meetings with Lord Elgin High School (LEHS) Parents & students the LEHS parent council decided to meet with the General Brock High School (GBHS) parent council. After a review of options both parent councils agreed to explore the concept of a Composite school. After investigation into the Composite high school option both councils agreed it could work for the students of both schools.

“A Composite High School could expose academic and general (applied) stream students to vocational opportunities.

“A Composite highschool could also address the issue of many Burlington students not considering the vocational stream as many students and parents had a negative and false opinion GBHS.

“When considering the Composite high school option the Elgin/Brock councils met to discuss the meshing of the two school populations and the possible problems.

“After discussion and feedback from students, parents, teachers and consultation with HDSB staff it was agreed that we could proceed with this Composite high school option.

General Brock high school

General Brock was merged with Lord Elgin – the new school was re-named the Robert Bateman high school – which the Director of Education has recommended be closed. The ward trustee has recommended merging Bateman high school with Nelson high school.

That merger in 2004 resulted in the Robert Bateman High School we have today.

What is interesting about this story is that it was the school councils that led the process. They came up with a solution and took it to the Board and the Board bought into it.

Has public involvement gotten to the point where parents are limited to meetings where they are expected to sit and listen to bureaucrats lead them through an exercise in which they have no input?

What happened during the PARC process? Why were they not able to arrive at a consensus and just tell the Board staff and by extension the school board trustees that none of the options really served the community – and therefore they would collectively agree that option 7 – closing no schools – was their choice and then insist that the trustees bow to the will of the parent representatives?

Instead the PAR committee allowed themselves to battle with each other and everyone lost.

There is a lesson in that early 2000 experience that saw Lord Elgin and Brock work out the problems at the parent level.

The Beleck’s put it rather well when they said: “By working together we created a new concept Composite high school.  A closure issue turned into a positive result for all of Burlington/Halton!!!

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Muir sends his comments to the trustees who will decide the fate of two Burlington high schools Wednesday evening.

opinionandcommentBy Tom Muir

June 6th, 2017



I cannot delegate personally at the June 7 Board meeting, so please accept this written delegation for the record.

Accountability of the Trustees and Board

Muir making a point

Tom Muir

You know the time is coming for the Trustees to make decisions about the Board Director’s recommendations about Burlington’s community of schools. In this, it is time to treat the parents, residents, students and community with respect and truth.

It is time for the Trustees, as democratically elected officials, to be accountable to your constituents. The Education Act provides clarity about the responsibility of individual trustees to bring to the board the concerns of parents, students and supporters of
the board.

It provides for the responsibility of the trustees to work with the values, priorities, and expectations of the community to translate them into policy. It is incumbent on trustees to act with integrity, which means with honesty and strong moral and ethical principles.

All the trustees are responsible for the best interests of all students – this means that all trustees are accountable for their actions in regard to Burlington schools, not just schools in their area.

Trustees play an essential role in creating the conditions for: achieving excellence in student learning; ensuring equity and promoting well-being and; enhancing public confidence in publicly funded education.

Enhancing public confidence means ensuring accountability for the use and effective stewardship of resources and public school assets.

My expressions of comment and concern

You also know that I have written you extensively, and provided a great deal of information about the PAR context and process, and my concerns that arise from the factual nature of that, and how the Board actions and behavior is reflected by that body of evidence.

Based on this evidence I have provided over the history of the PAR, and events emerging, it is quite clear that the Board has created an outcome of systematic, conflict-based crisis in Burlington schools and community. There has been an evident failure to enhance public confidence throughout the PAR process.

There have been record numbers of complaints, delegations to the Board, picket lines, demonstrations, protest marches to the Board office, delegations to provincial parliament, complaints to the local MPP and the Minister of Education, testimonials to Burlington schools, and the list can go on as you know.

It seems clear that the failure of the Board to manage and achieve the critical goal of effective utilization, by building what are almost all surplus seats at Hayden, is seen as the root of the present crisis, and conflict, by a large majority of people.

This is the unhealthy, even pathological, consequence of the predominantly defensive strategy used by the Board to control, manipulate, deny, and distort the reality underlying the emergence of the conflicts.

This defense, as offense, is based on the theme of redefining truth, and sticking to the script.

The fact that I had to resort to a Freedom of Information request to get any information at all speaks loudly to the controlling and obstructive manner with which the Board and the Director chose to communicate with residents.

Directives, based on the Education Act, and Guidance documents, state that in carrying out its accountable responsibilities, a board must engage in effective communication with school staff, students and their families, community members, and others. In my experience, and that of others I know of, there was a deliberate failure to engage and communicate on critical matters of facts and truth.

I never received any reply from anyone to my several sets of correspondence and requests for information (other than my FOI), except acknowledgements of receipt and thanks from one trustee to all memos, and similar replies from one trustee to just one memo.

The only effective outcome for the Board was to continue a cover up of the problems asked about for as long as possible. Even my FOI request and response was obstructed, in information provided, and timing.
What is the correct and truthful source of the crisis and conflict?

As I have shown conclusively, with official data, the crisis we face was caused by deliberate and knowing actions by the Board to build the NE Burlington school (now named Hayden) capacity that was not needed based on enrollment trends and utilization expected. The data prove that this is the planned and only cause of the current utilization issues in Burlington schools.

There was no business case in the normally applied manner based on sufficient need for pupil places in excess of seats available, and growing for the foreseeable future.

And on top of that, the Board is now redefining this truth, by using the resultant low utilization, or surplus seats, caused by these past actions, to support the present PAR now, as Condition 1, having failed to act on the foreseeable consequences of the plans they made to build surplus seats, at the time of the planning.

And compounding this, the logic of PAR Condition 2, “that reorganization involving the school or group of schools could enhance program delivery and learning opportunities” is rationalized to follow the lower utilization, as the Board states now, in the present, but failed to, in the past, when it was first created in the plans for Hayden.

This, in fact, reflects another failure to act, by the Board, on the additional foreseeable consequences of the plans made at the time of the planning – failures to act in a responsible, transparent, and accountable manner, pure and simple.

The board is responsible for setting policy relating to facilities, including: maintenance, acquisition and disposal of sites; building renewal plans; and site operation. All policies relating to facilities must first take into consideration requirements related to the achievement and well-being of students of the board.

Despite repeated comments and requests for explanation, I was never able to get the Board to provide such an explanation as to how it included in the Hayden planning such “consideration requirements related to the achievement and well-being of students of the board.”

This means that the decision to build Hayden, and the surplus capacity that it entailed, creating lower utilization in Burlington, would also lead to diminished program delivery and learning opportunities, reduced equity and well being, and less achievement of excellence.

Clearly, if it does this now, then logically, it would have done so then, as part of the plan.

More to the point, these impacts were perfectly predictable, as they would follow from the utilization effects built into the Hayden plan, which they did clearly, and are now present.

As well, and doubly ironic, nowhere does the Board acknowledge the predicted overcapacity occupancy of Hayden now, as a problem in its own right, but contributing to the lower utilization of the other schools, and thus an option to partially relieve that situation.

These outcomes are what the Board is telling us now, through this PAR, will emerge from the lower utilization caused by building Hayden, and so we have to close two schools to correct the surplus they created.

This is used as rationalization for the PAR, and to further entrench the fabricated alternative reality created by the Board, that is creating the conflicts and crisis, and to try and evade being accountable for these actions.

This is the redefinition of truth that the PAR is based on, and this is reflected throughout the trustee debate meeting minutes.

Does the crisis and conflict continue despite knowing the buried truth? What’s happening now?

So what is being discussed in the current PAR debates by trustees is the same thing as would have been discussed if anyone had done their job and considered what such outcomes might be when Hayden was being planned and pushed forward, which would knowingly build surplus seats.

The fact is the Board created comparable loss of equity, opportunity, well-being and excellence to students, in the same measure as they claim now as one reason for the PAR. Before Hayden there was no problem with low utilization, and none in the foreseeable future.

Unfortunately, no one, except one or two trustees back in 2008, took their responsibility and accountability seriously, and no one to this day has been called to account for this, and to explain their actions.
Not even in the two debate meetings of trustees was anyone called to account for this. And I have provided a great deal of official evidence to all the trustees, and Director, on this matter, but there is still no mention.

It is on this basis of disavowal of the truth that this PAR process has acquired the potential to be pathological in its impact as an outcome of this deep rooted denial.

Closing two schools in Burlington is certainly pathological. No doubt.

This fact set has been continually repressed, or buried, like a painful and unacceptable thought, and source of anxiety, in a vain attempt to remove it from the PAR awareness.

The Director himself told me that bringing up the Hayden planning and execution would be too dangerous for him politically.

Whatever happened to Ministry guidance about not having conflicts of interest, or letting personal, political motives enter the decisions?

And further, in the debates, the question of why the Director changed his mind about closing Central was raised, and he claimed there was nothing personal or political in that decision.

Then he invoked the untruth that Pearson and Bateman had declining enrollment and utilization trends, when in fact it was the Board building of Hayden that targeted these schools, and others, as the source of students and feeders and programs to fill the surplus seats they built at Hayden, to gross overcapacity.

The declining enrollment and utilization in Burlington schools was created by the Board, and is being sustained for their purposes.

Overall, from the delegate evening I attended, and the minutes of the two evening Board meeting debates on the Director’s final report, the Trustees still appear to be rejecting the fact that they are debating an untruthful reality, provided to them by the Board and sustained by the Director.

The buried truth I described appears as an unacceptable idea altogether, that is incompatible with their image of the PAR, and their anxious struggle to deal with the crisis and conflicts emerging from their distorted reality, refusal to be openly accountable for that, or hold responsible parties accountable by asking for explanations.

They apparently behave as if this defensive denial of the facts, that actually happened, never occurred, and appear as though they are stuck in a Director provided alternative reality and set of alternative facts.
The Director and senior staff are inflexible and intransigent in the debate, sticking to the script of their redefined reality.

What stands out in the debates?

In the minutes of the trustee debate meeting these few, but telling instances emerge.

1. The very first point raised in the debates was;

“A. Collard asked about ways to reinforce programming and boundaries at Robert
Bateman High School. S. Miller indicated initial discussion around the original
recommendation should precede any additional options requiring further
investigation. G. Cullen commented on the surplus that would still exist with a
twinned school concept.”

Mr Cullen was part of the senior management team back in 2008 and forward on the Hayden plan. He knew all about the consequences built in, and flowing from that plan, but there is no record that he ever warned about the surplus seats results built into the plan, or the utilization and program impacts that might flow from that.

But here he is now, making the “surplus” the very first, and only, thing he says in answer to the trustee’s question. No mention of past actions.

I was also surprised that a senior staff member, Steven Parfeniuk, that was also closely and chiefly involved with the Hayden plan and the Ministry on that file in 2008 and forward, as then Superintendent of Business for HDSB, and would know about everything I have raised, was not questioned, or otherwise revealed as present at the meeting.

This suggests to me that the trustees are in denial with staff, and there was no serious effort to get to the truth of how this crisis and conflict happened, and to call out those responsible to be accountable.

2. Much of the May 17 debate content is about implementing the recommendations and school closures, and how the integration, transitions, and general impacts of closures would be handled.

Of course, in a mechanical sense, movements, integration, and transitions, under closures are forced, and are managed as matters of fact – you just do it. Staff and Director replies were rationalizations of what they will do, and generally, everything sounded as if without harm.

With a very few notable exceptions, although they are in there I must say, I did not sense any real effort to explore adaptive and innovative options to recognize the significance of every school, and how each contributes to the excellence, equity, and well-being of all the students.

I saw no mention of how closing any school does not in any way enhance public confidence, which, along with Board credibility, has been sorely lost in this PAR.

The continued refusal to admit that past Board actions created this crisis and conflict, and so there is a need for appeasement and righting of this egregious wrong, is notable.

This is particularly disturbing given that the Trustees have been provided with all the official and factual information that I was able to collect, and parent and public debate and information, that conclusively prove this, but yet the debate never mentions it, explains it, or accounts for it..

As I said before, enhancing public confidence means ensuring accountability for the use, and effective stewardship, of resources and public assets for the delivery of a strong educational system attuned to individual needs.

I do not see how closing Bateman, in particular, home of the most needy, and apparently an international success story, is attuned to individual needs.

I sensed from some trustee comments, that they take low utilization schools as somehow deficient in their service to students. To me this signifies the trustees are deliberately blind to the fact of Hayden causing the utilization crisis they are in, and that staff and the Board didn’t think about this at all when Hayden was planned and built.

And for sure, they aren’t going to tell anyone about that now.

3. A very notable exchange on the central problem causing the crisis, and the continued rigid and closed approach of the Director is as follows:

“A. Collard provided her perspective on the transportation issues at Hayden. She
also spoke to catchment area for Robert Bateman High School, suggesting
expanding the area to include more than Frontenac Public School. D. Renzella
and S. Miller spoke to the existing catchment area and feeder schools that are
11 directed to Robert Bateman High School. S. Miller commented on the impact of
reversing decisions made by previous Boards of Trustees, specifically redirecting
students or changing catchment areas to move approximately 200 students from
Nelson High School to Robert Bateman High School, and/or moving students from
the Orchard community from Dr. Frank J. Hayden to Robert Bateman. He
commented this does little more than shuffle the deck, and does not address the
underlying issue. Currently five of the six Burlington secondary schools have low
enrolments; boundary changes as described would perpetuate the issue and may
result with all six of the schools underutilized”.

I find that this personifies the Board created source of the crisis and conflict stemming from their alternative reality explanation of what caused it, and continues it.

Again, he ignores that building Hayden caused the surplus seats, the utilization issue, and any program issues that are asserted to result.

The Directors view is, that’s a mistake, but too bad, so the best he can offer is to sweep this accountability under the rug in the name of, “we can’t just shuffle the deck”, and because, as he said to me, it’s too political for him to handle.

Then the Director reverses this political abstention by telling the trustees that reversing decisions made by previous boards, to change boundaries/catchments, feeders, program locations, and other student shifting, is somehow problematic, and he cautions against it.

I repeat again, this is exactly how all the students in Burlington were reallocated, or shuffled like a deck, to fill Hayden to gross overflowing, with no current plan to do anything about that, whatever the consequences.

I don’t see anything wrong with underutilization – gross overutilization at Hayden seems to be okay with the Board and Director.

Shuffling the deck can work if it’s tried, because the underlying issue to everyone I know is that the closing of schools he recommends is a crisis for Burlington schools, and he offers nothing else.

So the Director, in my opinion, is getting subtly but frankly political in advising trustees that this power, which is a key tool in their kit, should not be used as an option to alleviate the crisis, and stop the conflict.

In other words, don’t solve the crisis by doing what others before you did to cause it.

That would recognize and acknowledge it happened, by digging up the truth.

If the Director and trustees want to be inflexible and intransigent, it will be impossible to get enhanced public confidence again.

I suggest that if schools are closed with no accountability for how it was caused and done, the conflict will not end.

Those who are rigid and closed will succeed only in isolating themselves.

Board credibility depends on coming clean and being contrite.

It will not come from actions by some Trustees congratulating the Board and Trustees for “due diligence”, or defensively mentioning that some people emailed support for the recommendations.


This delegation turned into another long one for at least two reasons.

First, the end of the PAR is near, as are whatever decisions trustees are going to make. So this is my last chance to communicate with you before this process comes to a close.

Second, my delegation reflects all the pent up frustration, and conflict-induced outrage, that I have seen in many others, and experienced myself, in this PAR process, and in interacting with an unresponsive, but one-time to me, frankly manipulative, Board staff and Director.

So you are again, as the elected and accountable decision-making body, justifiably on the receiving end of my analysis and opinion.

My final advice to you today is the following.

In your decisions to be made, Trustees are ill-advised to follow recommendations from people who have consistently been wrong about, well, everything. That’s a natural consequence of the redefinition of truth. The whole truth always wants to get out into the light.

And most of all troubling, this is by design from the start.


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Parent sets out what the public expects of its trustees - Accountability, Creativity, Empathy, Integrity, Equity and Collaboration

opinionandcommentBy Staff

June 6th, 2017

Burlington, ON


A parent from the Lester B. Pearson high school delegated to the school board trustees a few weeks ago and asked some very pointed questions. They are worth a close look as parents wait to learn what the trustees will decide to do Wednesday evening on the matter of closing high schools in the city of Burlington where there are more seats than needed for the number of students who will attend high schools in the foreseeable future.

Dine lbp

Diane Miller, Lester B. Pearson high school parent delegating to trustees.

There is considerable debate about the accuracy of the Board’s enrollment projections but that was not the what Dianne Miller wanted to talk about.

“There are a couple of threads I would like to weave this evening. My starting point is Director Miller’s own words: “We did not go into this (field) to close schools”. Miller wanted there to be a discussion with determination and exhaustive input from all parties impacted by the decision that will be made tomorrow evening.

“What voices have been included in the process “asked Miller and “which ones have been missing? She suggested looking at the issue from the Board’s perspective


The words are highlighted in the Board’s multi-year plan.

“Has due diligence been met in each area. I would argue no.

“Creativity and Collaboration stand out to me as areas deeply flawed in this process by missing partners. “Where has the voice of the teachers been? They are with our children for almost seven hours of the day. Yet they have been kept silent and not given a place at the discussion table. The ones who are told to dig deep, to be creative with our children were not involved in solving a problem impacting those very same children we entrust with their education.

“What about the students. My son and daughter felt their voices were not heard in the process. One felt it was “a done deal”, the “other distraught” at the thought of her school being segmented. Besides the student survey why are they not represented at the PARC table? We hold contests, Think Bowls, Scientific, Robotic, and Math competitions all utilizing their brains…but not on how to save their school. “None of the questions in the student survey touched on their creativity / ingenuity for keeping their school off the chopping block so to speak. Yet they, just like their teachers, are most impacted by this decision.

“Mental Wellness Professionals – why were they not given a seat at the table. LBP was deliberately built as a smaller school setting. A school to provide for relief for the over-crowding at MMR. How ironic that it is poised to be a solution to Hayden in the same capacity and yet this time instead of relief it faces closure. Study upon study reflects the benefit of a 600-800 high school student population. The benefits have already been highlighted by past speakers. Bateman serves a broad sector of student education needs. Yet, no seat was given at the PARC table as to the impact of these school closures. “Where are the union representatives? Why are they quiet in this process?

“Today, as the public, we are given 5 minutes to race through our concerns in person. How is our voice really being heard face-to-face in a meaningful two-way discussion?

“Issues that as a group we could have raised and discussed are innovative ideas. Ways to address under-utilization by renting out of some spaces to community partners – tutoring businesses; Driver’s Ed; other co-op programs such as the LBP Co-op Nursery. As a collective we could have discussed ESL needs at a north/south school – a hub especially since the board likes and wants (and is) to attract students from abroad as high school students into the fold.

“Has the latter even been considered in the student numbers/projections? We could have (and have for LBP) provided resolutions to overcrowding issues at one school and under-utilization at another. Members of the LBP Committee got creative – because they flipped the issue. Instead of taking the premise of – we have underutilization and programming – tell us which schools to close; they started with the “we did not go into the field of closing schools” and came up with ways to in fact make that a true statement. How we are even seriously discussing the closure of a school in the north is beyond logic given the growth.

“Equity – why don’t we give equal weighting and concern to over-crowding as to under-utilization. We heard that 90% is the required utilization but have never, ever heard what the comfort level is for the over-utilization. Given some are projected (your numbers) for 110% or 140%…what is that acceptable %? it is unacceptable to make plans for permanent over-utilization, particularly in a growing area. Too risky. This is what happened to Hayden, now bursting. What number of portables is too many?

“Accountability – who is accountable for incorrect decisions? Who is accountable for short term vs. long term thinking? Who is accountable to the students, the parents, the community, the teachers, when they do not feel included or that they have been heard?

“Empathy – it goes beyond feeling and knowing others are struggling with our decisions. It means we walk in their shoes. Walking in them means we understand how our decisions will impact each and every student within our care. It means we want to have done due diligence, left no stone unturned, left no voice out, and have explored all possibilities before we close a school (let alone two). Let’s hit pause and not feel pressured to move forward with any decision that we are not 100% sure on or that we feel can be justified.

“Be a visionary. Be creative. Be innovative. Be accountable. Be empathetic. Be collaborative in the fullest sense of the word by including all voices at the table. Help this process and the ultimate decision be one that does uphold the integrity of the duty entrusted into your care…our children and financial resources (yes, $12 million in renovations to duplicate Bateman at Nelson is not fiscally responsible).

“So please hear my voice, and the voice of many others. Hear the voice of those who feel defeated in the community. Do not close these schools – they are not just bricks and mortar they beat with the hearts of our students. Partner with us to find a solution that works to solve what generated the PAR in the first place. Work not in silos but in collaboration with the community to come up with a viable solution. We are counting on you.

That is about as good as a delegation can be. Were the trustees listening – was Diane Miller heard?

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School board trustee puts ideas with real meat on the bones in front of her peers - they could keep Bateman open.

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

June 5th, 2017



Right from the very beginning Ward 5 Halton District School Board trustee Amy Collard was paying very close attention to what was being said about high school closures in Burlington. While the Robert Bateman high school was not recommended for closure by the Director of Education in his initial report, Collard was acutely aware that its distance from Nelson high school – less than 2km to the west – made it a closure possibility.

FIRE Bateman principal at siren

Bateman principal Mark Duley could not have know he was going to have to sound an alarm and tell parents that there school was at risk. Dudley was using a fire alarm during a student cook off against Burlington fire fighters

The Bateman parents didn’t have their ears to the ground but Principal Mark Duley knew his school was vulnerable.

Because they didn’t feel at risk – the Bateman parents did next to nothing as the Program Accommodation Review Committee wound its way through the seven meetings they held. There were exceptions: Sharon Picken and Lisa Bull, the Bateman members of the PARC, worked very hard to get the Bateman story out. They didn’t realize Bateman was going to end up on the PARC list of schools that could be considered for closure until the third PARC meeting when Bateman was added to the numerous options that were before the PARC.

When the Director of Education revised his initial recommendation and took Central high school off the list and added Bateman, a community that was not ready for the fight of their lives had to pull together. Unfortunately, the Bateman community turned on the Central high school people and accused them of “throwing Bateman under the bus” when what they needed to do was get their story out.

PARC with options on the walls

The PARC met on seven occasions and turned out to be a lot more deliberative than Board staff expected. Two parents from each high school served the community very well.

With the PAR committee disbanded the trustees got to hear the delegations – there were 51 of them delivered over two long evening sessions. The Bateman story was very effectively told – what no one could tell for certain was – were the trustees listening; more importantly were they hearing?

Disabled #2

A single parent, deaf, mother of two using sign language to communicate. Her daughter, a severally disabled child takes part in the Community Pathways Program at Bateman high school.

Each delegation had five minutes to tell their story and an additional five minutes for the trustees to ask questions – there just weren’t that many really good questions from the trustees.

The public learned Bateman had an auto body paint shop that was close to world class – the equipment had been donated by Toyota; students from that program had gone on to win competitions on the other side of the world.

There was a welding program that was getting excellent reviews and a culinary program that was very popular. The biggest plus was the   Community Pathways Program (CPP) that educated, nurtured and cared for exceptionally vulnerable students.

During the delegations there was a single parent who was deaf and used sign language to communicate with her daughter who was unable to control her bodily functions – but her mind seemed to be sharp. Watching the delegation was a heart wrenching experience. There were other parents with children in the Community Pathways Programs (CPP) who delegated very effectively,

Other than the parents of these children and other students at the high school few knew they were there. It was a truly amazing delegation to watch.

Dine lbp

Diane Miller, a Pearson high school parent, reminds trustees of the Board’s purpose.

Denise Davy, a skilled advocate brought her experience to the fight – and it was a fight. She got decent CHCH television coverage and delegated very effectively at city hall as well.

But nothing changed.

The response from the Board staff was that these were all programs that could be replicated at Nelson high school where much of the Bateman program was headed if Bateman was closed in 2019

The auto body paint shop – the one at Nelson would be even better; welding – same thing – the Board staff told anyone who asked that the move would give the Board a chance to upgrade everything. They were a little weak on the details.

The transformation from Bateman to Nelson – not a problem – every time the Board staff did a transformation they got better at it, they said.

It was a trust issue and the public, at least for those who were involved in the school closing issue, just did not believe senior staff or the Director of Education.

Board staff seemed blissfully unaware of the depth of that distrust. There were parents who went over the top emotionally – they were the exceptions.

There were also some solid, fact filled delegations that pointed up serious flaws in the way the Board staff had created catchment area boundaries and the selection of the feeder schools.

The Board Planning department seemed prepared to give out whatever information they felt would serve their immediate purpose – then later give significantly different information to an almost identical question.

It struck many as a level of manipulation designed to give the Board staff what they wanted rather than what was best for the community. The Board staff philosophy seemed to be larger high schools offered better program opportunities for students. Much of the evidence from the Board’s research didn’t support that contention.

Collard and Miller

Ward 4 trustee Amy Collard held Director of Education Stuart Miller\s feet to the flames and didn’t give an inch with her persistent questioning during the Board information session.

When the Director’s second recommendation came out with Bateman on the list of schools to be closed, the activists at Bateman accused the Central parents of throwing them under the bus and things got very nasty.

The issue was now before the trustees and Amy Collard was now able to do what she had been wanting to do – get some ideas on the table and find the solutions that would prevent the closing of a school.

There was a public hungry for information but there wasn’t much the trustees could do up to this point.

They had created a Program Accommodation Review Committee (PARC) then they had to stand back and let that committee do its work.

Collard, along with all the other trustees, had to sit on their hands, while two parents from each of the seven high schools discussed the options that were before them and began narrowing a long list down to a short manageable list.

The PARC did a lot more than Board staff expected – while they didn’t disband with a consensus they did narrow down the options – from the 30 they were given, to which they added a dozen or so – got narrowed down to five.

The surprise for the people at Bateman was that they were now on the list of schools that were being considered for closure.

When the PARC came to an end it was time for the public to delegate. There were 51 of those heard over two public meetings.

For the first time the public got a sense of what Bateman was really all about. The depth and significance of their programs had not been discussed openly. The parents with children in the school knew the story – the public hadn’t heard it in so much detail.

Bateman had a superb story that wasn’t told until public delegations were heard;  by that time they were fighting an uphill battle.

LBP George Ward + Rory Nisen

Rory Nisan on the left exchanging contact information with George Ward, a parent who was active when Lester B. Pearson was created as a community school – an experiment that worked but which the current school board administrative leadership does not appear to want to continue,

Lester B. Pearson had a story as well– about how they had been stiffed by their Board with hardly a word from the trustees and less than a peep from the ward trustee.

Pearson had had the bulk of its feeder school taken away from them and given to Hayden high school where the overcapacity was approaching the 140% level.

The delegations ranged from some rather silly ideas to emotive pleas from parents to not close “their” school. There were also a number of very good delegations – excellent as a matter of fact.

Each of the trustees reacted differently to the delegations – some had strong relationships with the schools they were responsible for and they worked their connections. Others clearly didn’t understand what their job was and others failed to reach their potential as trustees.

The public isn’t at all aware of how hard these women work. While they grapple with a very significant closing schools decision, they are working their way through the budget – the school board is the biggest employer in the Region.

They meet weekly, which we don’t see at the municipal level. They are for the most part diligent and struggling to fully understand the longer term impact of what they decide to do on the June 7th.

Hayden High, Burlington's newest high school built as part of a complex that includes a Recreational Centre and a public library with a skate park right across the street.

Hayden High, Burlington’s newest high school built as part of a complex that includes a Recreational Centre and a public library with a skate park right across the street.

It was a decision to create the Hayden high school in Alton made in 2008 that started a series of events that put the Board of Education in the position it is in now.

To add to the really messy situation is the way the Board of Education communicates with its public. Director of Education Stuart Miller has been very direct and said on more than one occasion that the Board doesn’t do a very good job at communicating with the public.

Add to that some parents whose emotions got the better of them and made statements that were just not true.

It has been a very difficult story to cover


Trustee Amy Collard.

Collard who has more Board experience than the other three Burlington trustees, has been very proactive in looking for solutions. She hasn’t always gotten the attention many of her ideas deserve but that hasn’t deterred her in the least,

Following the delegations was an “information” meeting of the Board during which Staff set out to defend the recommendation that the Director had presented the trustees.

Collard was the first person to put a question to Director Miller when the information session started – which he basically said he wasn’t going to answer.

Miller was surprised and caught off guard – he was expecting to be able to explain his decision and position now that the PARC had done its job and the trustees had heard all the delegations.

Miller was there to defend his recommendation which Collard wasn’t buying. Each trustee had many opportunities to ask questions of the Director’ recommendation and to pepper him with questions based on the material that came out of the PARC and the 51 delegations.

How did they do? They asked a lot of questions and Miller along with his Planning manager Dom Renzalla and PARC Chair Scott Podrebrac handled them reasonably well.

The “information” session went much longer than many expected – they were still at it when the Chair chose to recess the meeting for a week – and come back at it again.

During each of these session Collard kept hammering away at what could and should be done with Bateman.

The senior Board staff kept giving the trustees smooth assurances that the transition from what is in place now to what they will end up will go just fine.

A number of the trustees weren’t buying that line.

Gerry Cullen

Gerry Cullen, Superintendent of Facilities, explaining why much of the data he provided kept changing.

Gerry Cullen, Superintendent of Facilities was already measuring Nelson for the influx it was going to experience with the number of programs that would be transferred from Bateman to Nelson in 2019.

Collard’s objective is to keep the Robert Bateman high school open – and she has put two possibilities on the table.

1) Develop a partnership between Bateman and Nelson

Students from both schools could attend classes at either school. This would increase the breadth of program offered to all students.

Students in Essential, Community Pathways and

International Baccalaureate programs would continue at Bateman without disruption.

The commercial grade kitchen facilities at Bateman would continue to be viable.

Centennial Swimming Pool would be accessible to all students at both schools.

The auditorium and stadium at Nelson would be accessible to all students at both schools.

The OYAP and SHSM programs offered at each school would be available to students at both schools.

Collard said the operationalization of this idea would need to be determined. Her preliminary thoughts as to how it might be accomplished included:

Each school continuing to offer the full suite of required courses – as well as the specialized programs that are already in place – to the students in their current catchment area. Students wishing to participate in courses offered at the alternate campus could decide to take their entire course load or half of their course load (morning or afternoon) for that semester at that campus. Regional programs would continue to be offered at their current locations.

centennial pool - inside

Centennial Pool, which is attached to Bateman high school will become a bit of an orphan if the high school is closed.

Each school might offer specific courses – for example Students in Grade 9 regular English program could have Physical and Health Education and French at Bateman in the morning periods and Math and English at Nelson in the afternoon periods. This would give all Grade 9 English program students at both schools access to Centennial pool for their Physical and Health Education program.

Shuttle bus – it is about a 20-30 minute walk between Bateman and Nelson, so they may want to provide a shuttle service between the two schools.

Collard argues that this approach increases equity of access to program for all students at Bateman and Nelson and it increases equity of access to facilities, including the Commercial Grade Kitchen, Automotive and Welding Shops, Auditorium, Greenhouse for all students at Bateman and Nelson. It also does away with the emotionally difficult transitions for students in Essential or Community Pathways Programs

Bateman students

Bateman International Baccalaureate students delegating before Board trustees

This approach also eliminates the need to move the International Baccalaureate Program from Bateman to Central high school – problem with that is Central needed those IBL students to get its enrollment numbers up – and – the IBL has a certain cachet to it that Central would like to acquire.

Collard pointed out the her suggestion reduce renovation costs at Nelson which were set at $12 million.  The suggestion preserves the ability to maintain the YMCA Daycare at Bateman and ensures the viability of Centennial Pool and increases access to extracurriculars for all students.

Collard does concede that the suggestions does require some creative logistical efforts – especially in the first year of implementation

Transportation might be required to ensure students can attend classes at both campuses – these costs might be mitigated since students living in the eastern area of the Bateman catchment (who would be redirected to Nelson if Bateman were to close) would not require transportation to Nelson.

Creating community partnerships:

Collard also saw some significant opportunities for real Community Partnerships. The unique specializations offered at Bateman have considerable community appeal. The Commercial Grade Kitchen at Bateman could be used in a partnership with the Halton Multicultural Council (HMC) to help newcomers to Canada learn hospitality skills that can lead to gainful employment. Collard had a conversation with the Executive Director at HMC who happen to be seeking a space in which to provide this type of program.

Bateman offers skilled trades that aren’t currently available at The Centre for Skills and Development; specifically automotive and culinary. A partnership with The Centre could be beneficial to the community.

Collard has done what parents have a right to expect from their Board of Education trustees.  She has been both proactive and innovative. One cannot say as much for the ward 4 trustee. The high school in that ward, Lester B. Pearson, has gotten more support from the city Councillor who has zero clout on the high school closing issue.

Collard is not a popular trustee. She doesn’t expect to win a popularity contest; she wants to do the job she was elected to do. She was acclaimed as the ward trustee during the past two municipal elections. She served one session as vice chair of the Board and has sought the votes of her peers to serve as Chair – that has not been forthcoming.

Collard is abrupt, she is direct. She tends not to get into much of the chit chat with the other trustees.

But – and this is important – she is the only trustee who has put a solution, an alternative, on the table. Her fellow trustees may not follow her lead – but they can and should give her ideas full debate and consideration. If they cannot accept her approach they might want to look at option 7 – don’t close any of the schools – until there has been a more fulsome and through debate.

Denise Davy made a very significant point when she noted that the city of Burlington spent more time and debate on deciding where to put the Freeman Station than the school board has spent on closing two high schools

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BurlingtonGreen sponsors a film on bikes vs cars - guess who wins?

eventsgreen 100x100By Staff

June 6, 2017



The next BurlingtonGreen event is a film presentation on Bikes versus card – a must see movie for the Gazette commentators who regular toss barbed comments at each other.

Wednesday, June 7th – a look at both the struggle for bicyclists in a society dominated by cars, and the revolutionary changes that could take place if more cities moved away from car-centric models.

Wednesday, at 6:30 pm – Central Library, 2331 New Street, Burlington

$5 admission (free for BG members).

Following the film, there will be time for audience discussion about the challenges and opportunities for cycling in Burlington with our event guests from the Burlington Cycling Advisory Committee.
Click here to see the film trailer.


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There was a 9% increase in charges laid during the 2017 Canada Road Safety Week from the 2016 campaign.

News 100 redBy Staff

June 5, 2017



During the period of 16-22 May, uniform and plainclothes officers from across all areas of the Halton Regional Police Service supported the National driving campaign known as ‘Canada Road Safety Week’, conducting a heightened level of traffic enforcement on area roadways.


Regional police enforcing highway traffic act during May long weekend – 9% more charges laid in 2017.

Officers focused on what has become known as the ‘Big 3 Killers’ on our roads, including aggressive driving, distracted driving and impaired operation by alcohol or drug.

During the seven days of enforcement, which ended with the conclusion of the Victoria Day Long Weekend, Halton Police laid a total of 2,082 Provincial offence charges, commonly known as “traffic tickets”.

This total represents a 9% increase from the 2016 campaign, when 1,903 charges were laid. The top three charges included:

1. Speeding;
2. Documentary infractions including licensing and insurance; and
3. Disobey stop sign – fail to stop.

Interesting to note that distracted driving was not one of the top three.

During this campaign, Halton Police conducted a variety of enforcement, including RIDE, to specifically address the ongoing concern of motorists choosing to drive while impaired.

14 drivers were either driving with over 80mgs of alcohol in their system, or refused to provide a breath sample, which resulted in a criminal charge, 90-day licence suspension and 7-day vehicle impound.

3 drivers were driving impaired by drug, which resulted in a criminal charge, 90-day licence suspension and 7-day vehicle impound.

23 drivers were driving in the alcohol warn range, with roadside breath testing resulting in 3/7/30-day roadside suspensions.

1 driver was driving in the drug warn range, with the DRE/SFST test resulting in a 3/7/30-day roadside suspension.

In contrast, 12 motorists were arrested and charged in 2016 with impaired driving related offences including impaired by drug.

Halton Police ask the public who  observe a vehicle being operated in a manner which places you or anyone else in danger, please call 911 for an immediate police response (#makethecall911).

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I was wondering - she asked: would you promote the Save Our School Walk?

eventspink 100x100By Pepper Parr

May 31st, 2017



“Hope all is well” she said and added “hope you are enjoying today’s beautiful weather.”

The she added: “ I was wondering if you would be so kind as to promote the Save Our School Walk which is this Saturday, June 3rd at 11 am .

Delegation May 8 HDSB

Some of the Pearson high school parents during delegation night at the Board of Education.

The Walk is a last minute effort by the parents whose children attend the Lester B. Pearson high school that has been recommended for closure in 2018.

It is a high school that has been hornswoggled by the Board when the feeder schools they once had got attached to Hayden high school – which was a death sentence for Pearson – but they are going to do whatever they can between now and June 7th when the eleven Board of Education trustees decide what to do.

Join the walk!LBP JUNE 3RD WALK FINAL VERSION - (1) (1)

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Attempts to access your sensitive data come in at the rate of several every day - you have to be vigilant.

ID theft damageBy Staff

May 31, 2017



They come in at the rate of a couple every day.

Most of them are immediately evident as phishing attempts and they get discarded.

From time to time there is a message that catches the eye (we once got caught by a United State Postal Service scan – we were expecting a parcel and we thought this was a part of the delivery notice)

This scam was aimed at TD Bank customers – we don’t bank with TD so we knew it was a phishing attempt.
However for those people who are TB Bank customers it might have read as a real notice and you might have responded.

TD scam - authentification

The use of a photograph can be deceiving.

Whenever there is something important – your bank calls you. They don’t want to lose you as a customer over what is a technical matter.

This one was good – look it over and see if you can identify the flaws.

Remember the cardinal rule – if in doubt – don’t.

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Regional police are asking high school students to take the distracted driving pledge - #TextULater

News 100 redBy Staff

May 30, 2017



The City of Burlington, Halton District and Halton Catholic District School Boards, the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association and the Ministry of Transportation, the Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) will officially kick-off its Distracted Driving Pledge (#TextULater) pilot campaign.

Starting Monday, June 5, HRPS High School Liaison Officers will visit high schools throughout Burlington, encouraging students to take the #TextULater Pledge and challenging others to do the same.

Deputy Chief Nishan Duraiappah pleads his innocence to the charge of Grand Theft Donuts, looking on is Halton Regional Police Detective Constable Paul Proteau.

Deputy Chief Nishan Duraiappah has always worked well with the high school crowd – hopefully he will be doing some of the teaching.

Deputy Chief Nish Duraiappah, Sergeant Jared McLeod, Burlington District Response Team and Initiative Creator and the community partners, including the City of Burlington, school boards, agencies and high school students are going to be involved in this one – a full Monty from everyone

The Regional police have always been able to work with high school students and explain the very real consequences of their behavior.

Two Nelson high school students do their best to stay on the green line wearing Fatal Vision goggles during a HAlton Regional Police RIDE program.

Two Nelson high school students do their best to stay on the green line wearing Fatal Vision goggles during a Halton Regional Police RIDE program.

A number of years ago the HRPS worked with Nelson high school students demonstrating the effect alcohol had on their ability to respond to what was going on around them – making it very very clear that driving wasn’t really possible with alcohol above the limit in their bodies.

Let’s hope they can do as well with getting the distracted driving message across – then of course there is the marijuana message once that product is legal.

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Museum gets $4.5 million in federal funding - re-development and rebuild is now a sure thing.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

May 26th, 2017



Museum - Vollick

Town Crier David Vollick gets the announcement meeting off to a good start. For $4.5 million – he really rang that bell.

The cheque was just short of $4.5 million but the happy faces at the Joseph Brant Museum this morning were not quibbling.

Museum Teatero

Barbara Teatero, Executive Director Museums of Burlington

A project that started 22 years ago when the first report was produced and became the life work of Barbara Teatero was made real with the federal government announcement that the renovation – rebuild of the Museum is now funded.

It is going to cost considerably more than $4,479,000 to do all the work that is planned but without the federal money the project was never going to break ground.

Museum Doyle

John Doyle

Museum Larry Waldron

Larry Waldren

John Doyle and Larry Waldron wore smiles that came close to lighting up the room that had 40+ people crammed into it while Town Crier Dave Vollick rang his bell and proclaimed the way only Vollick can proclaim that the museum was going to go through a significant change.

Construction schedules are being worked out – tenders will have to be let and scheduling completed.
Allan Magi had to tell city council a number of months ago that he was faced with a very challenging problem – organizing the construction without knowing for certain that the money was in the bank.

The Capital Works department will now be able assemble the internal team and begin with a project that will add another cultural destination for people who choose to visit Burlington.

Museum _Joseph_Brant_architects_drawing

Architect’s rendering of what the new Joseph Brant Museum could look like when it opens.

The new museum will have triple the space of the existing facility; the hope is that the space will be able to attract top tier travelling exhibits to the city.

While the politicians were doing what they do with words Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven cast a glance toward Doyle and raised an eyebrow and tipped his head – they had pulled it off.

Museum Brant house sign

Those waters were the view that Joseph Brant had each morning when he stepped out of his house that was on what he described as Burlington Bay. That path in the middle of the picture was once a two track railway line into the town.

It was a big day – it will take a couple of years to get to the Opening Day – and a fitting one for Joseph Brant who made Burlington his home for the last years of his life.

What will he think when the new Museum is opened?

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Parents want to ensure that their interests and the interests of their children get the attention they need.

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

May 24th, 2017



Steve Armstrong is an engineer by training working in the field of software development.

He hasn’t gotten much of his day job work done recently – he has become consumed by the machinations and the flow of information that has taken place during the public discussion of whether or not high schools in Burlington should be closed and if so, which schools and for what reasons.

Eric who PARC

Steve Armstrong

Last week Armstrong and Denise Davy met with “policy advisors at the Ministry of Education and had a good discussion with a few people. Afterwards we also met up with couple of NDP MPPs, Monique Taylor (Critic, Accessibility and Persons with Disabilities and Critic, Children and Youth Services) and Peggy Sattler (education critic).

Monique and Peggy both suggested keeping the heat up on our MPP, Eleanor McMahon.

Burlington MPP Eleanor McMahon and Minister of Education Mitzie Hunter have been closely following this process and apparently have had meetings with a number of Board people.

Armstrong said he was told “the province won’t intervene at this time because a decision hasn’t been made, and they want to respect the process”, BUT they do agree it’s better for everyone involved if the correct decision gets made in the first place. Since that lies with the Trustees at this point we need to keep informing them of facts in play.

“What I would like to see is Eleanor and Mitzie facilitating a meeting with the Trustees to allow some reasoned voices to talk to gaps in the process. Perhaps this could be the PARC members in direct dialogue with the Trustees but either way the Ministry resonated with my concern about a lack of meaningful engagement.”

Armstrong reflects the widely held public view that the first Public meeting in December did not fulfill its goal but rather made things worse….”it was a live survey with poor questions and allowed no dialogue with attendees.”

The PARC meetings went from a focus on decisions about what options to remove early on to finally talking about creative ideas at the last meeting…completely backwards.

Steve Armstrong + Cheryl deLught - Pearson

Steve Armstrong with Cheryl DeLught

Armstrong maintains that Director of Education Stuart Miller had told students that PARC members would be engaging with them. But that morphed into a survey which PARC members were denied participation in setting up questions that we might want.”

Armstrong adds that “staff were left out of this important process, and although apparently a heavily redacted set of comments have been made available to Trustees that was done after the PARC was disbanded so there was no chance of building on their input.

Armstrong said there has been no meaningful engagement with the city.

He adds that the second and third Public meetings were constructed differently than what the PAR committee had been told would happen.

Parents in front of maps

Functional breakouts (Finance, Building services etc) in which all Options where present didn’t meet the needs of the parents.

“We were told it would be a short presentation up front followed by stations focused on individual options to be interactively discussed with the public.

“Instead they skipped the presentation and went with functional breakouts (Finance, Building services etc) in which all options where present. Overall it lead to a lack of cohesion.”

Armstrong reports that the Ministry was also concerned when it learned that not all Trustees have visited the schools in play. “I’m lead to believe” said Armstrong “that there has been discussion with the four Burlington Trustees and the Ministry/MPP but think all 11 need to be reminded of their duties and expectations with regard to engagement.”

It is time for the trustees to step up to the plate and be responsible and accountable to the people that elected them. At the last Information session of the Board we had a trustee with two schools that are in play, with one threatened with closure asking questions of Board staff about a school that wasn’t even in her ward.

Another trustee was in the que for asking questions and when it came to her turn she had forgotten what her question was.

Collard and Miller

Amy Collard eye-balling Stuart Miller

This is irresponsible behavior from people who are desperately needed to act on behalf of their constituents and not be so cozy with the Director of Education. He is accountable to them, something that Stuart Miller fully understands and will respond to – the trustees have to set the bar – they have yet to do so.

The exception is Ward 5 trustee Amy Collard – she has been relentless with not only Miller but every other staff member she has put questions to.

The other trustees can learn about what it means to hold staff accountable.

The Board will continue the meeting that was recessed last week on Wednesday (tomorrow) at 6:00 pm. The meeting will be live webcast. Steve Armstrong thinks he just might drop in.

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The Gazette erred - Director of Education Miller did not meet with MPP McMahon.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

May 23rd, 2017



We published a statement about meetings Director of Education Stuart Miller was said to have had with Burlington MPP Eleanor McMahon.

No such meetings took place.

Miller did have conversations with McMahon, by telephone and they lasted a five or so minutes.  McMahon had questions about the process.

We have already apologized to Director Miller and will make our apologies to MPP Eleanor McMahon. There were extenuating circumstances – it was a long holiday weekend and people were not available. That doesn’t excuse the error we made.

The information we were given was false, and known to be false by people working to keep Bateman open. One, a former journalist, knows better than to make comments that she knew or should have known were false.

The other person the information came from was described in the article as a less than reliable source.

Stuart Miller said he and his staff changed their recommendation when they learned the full Central high school story and that their information came from the information that came out during the PARC process and documentation the Central parents made available to the board.

The Central enrollment, while not as high as the Board would like it to be, is understood to be stable.

“To close Central and have 600 students on buses every day would seriously jeopardize the educational experience these students would have and add close to $500,000 a year to transportation costs that they board already knows are going to increase” said Miller

“Closing central would not have done anything to enhance the educational experience.”

The projected Central enrollment was seen as stable. “And we did not make any allowance for whatever intensification might do for either Central or Aldershot: said Miller.

“We changed the recommendation when we learned the full Central high school story.”

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School closings: Who said what to who and what influence did they have? Parents to demonstrate outside MPP's office.

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

May 23th, 2017


There were errors in an earlier version of this article.  Corrections have been made. A link to the circumstances that led to the errors appears at the end of this article.  The Gazette regrets its mistakes.

Some of the back channel meetings that are reported to have taken place are beginning to come to the surface.

Ontario’s Minister of Education Mitzi Hunter has managed to make time for two lengthy meetings with delegations from Burlington.

Denise Davy - Bateman supporter

Denise Davy

Denise Davy and Steve Armstrong met with the Ministry officials last including two policy advisors last week and a representative from the office of Burlington MP Eleanor McMahon. That meeting lasted about an hour.

Steve Armstrong + Cheryl deLught - Pearson

Cheryl deLught and Steve Armstrong

Davy works with the Bateman parents, Armstrong was a member of the Program Accommodation Review (PAR) Committee representing Pearson high school.

Closing both schools is part of the revised recommendation Director of Education Stuart Miller sent to the trustees.

More than 50 people delegated to the trustees earlier in the month. The trustees are now in the “information” stage – the last step before they meet June 7th to make their decision. The information session, a meeting where the trustees get to ask questions of the Director and his staff took place last week; that meeting was recessed until Wednesday of this week. They were not able to complete their questions before 11:30 pm when everyone just wanted to go home.

The final decision is made by the 11 trustees.

Among the issues discussed at the meeting with Davy and Armstrong and the Minister of Education was a reported request for a “cleaner, scandal free process”. Both parents wanted to get the Bateman and Pearson arguments before the Minister of Education and point out to her that they felt the whole PAR process was flawed.

Flawed it may be – but the decision making power is with the elected trustees and that process has to follow its natural course.

It is clear now that the trustees are struggling with the recommendation that was sent to them by the Director of Education.

Where things get interesting is with the meetings that took place in March when Central high school parents trooped to Queen’s Park and demonstrated in front of the Legislature.

MMW with T - shirt

Marianne Meed Ward at a Queen’s Park media event with Leader of the Opposition Patrick Brown Brown.

Meed Ward then held a press conference with leader of the Opposition standing beside her while she complained about the flawed PAR process.

Meed Ward then had a lengthy meeting (reported to have lasted two and a half hours) with the Minister of Education and Burlington MP Eleanor McMahon.

Managing to get two Ministers into the room for a lengthy meeting is not easily achieved.

McMahon - First public as Minister

Burlington MPP Eleanor McMahon.

When the Director of Education changed his recommendation – he hasn’t given a reason for the recommendation change – the Bateman parents began to mobilize and tell their story.

The obvious argument for closing Bateman is that it is 1.9 km from Nelson. There is much more to the Bateman story than its distance from Nelson.

Many had serious concerns over the appointment of Meed Ward to the PARC. If the expectation was that she would deliver for the Central high school parents, she appears to have done so.

Many Bateman parents refer to a comment from a Central parent who said: “We continue to believe that Central is not the problem; the problem lies in the southeast end of the city where Nelson and Bateman have significantly overlapping catchments, 1.9 kilometres apart on the same street, and Bateman has declining enrolment….”

One of the reasons for the PAR being held was that there were too many empty seats in six of the seven high schools – with the seventh, Hayden high school, operating at 130% + capacity.

Many argue that the building of Hayden is the reason the problem of all those empty seats exist.

The decision to build Hayden was made in 2008 when Peggy Russell, a perennial NDP candidate, was a Halton District school Board trustee.

Peggy Russell is a very forthright speaker, she makes her point and seldom backs down. Expect her to excel at the all candidate meetings

Peggy Russell former NDP candidate and a Halton District School Board trustee – she served as vice chair for a period of time.

Russell, who says she was never a push over for Staff, said she felt a need to speak out, saying “you know there is a great deal more to this whole picture than meets the eye and staff are not the ones you should be looking at here, nor should they be vilified in this manner, the individuals who set all this in motion should not be allowed to become a Hero in this whole debacle, it is really very simple.”

The Gazette was not able to actually speak to Ms Russel – the communication was via email.

Did Miller meet with MPP McMahon?  He did not.  As the MPP McMahon would want a briefing from the Director of Education.


Stuart Miller during a Q&A that took place on-line.

Did McMahon influence Miller so much that he changed his recommendation?  She did not.

Miller has said in the past that the recommendation to close some of the high schools in Burlington should have been made years ago – today he certainly wishes that had been done.

Has Meed Ward delivered for the central parents? – most certainly. Has that accomplishment hurt her desire to become the Mayor of Burlington? – only time will tell.

The issue right now is ensuring that the 11 trustees have all the information they need and that they have the wisdom to decide what is best for the city of Burlington.

Related article link
Gazette erred.



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Skinner school board delegation: we have some uncomfortable decisions to make.

highschoolsBy Staff

May 22nd, 2017



Jeremy Skinner, a Ward 5 resident with three students enrolled at Robert Bateman delegated to the Halton District school Board trustees and set out before them what his view of the issue before them was: “The challenge before us is how to maintain student equity in the delivery of programs and opportunities when student enrollments change.”

Skinner Jeremy

Jeremy Skinner

“I believe that the question before us is whether we have sufficient capacity amongst MM Robinson and Dr. Frank J. Hayden to permit the closure of Lester B. Pearson and whether we have sufficient capacity below the QEW to close Robert Bateman?”

Skinner said he felt “obligated to suggest that we “punt” by partitioning some or all remaining Secondary Schools to include students in Grade 7 and 8 like Aldershot and Burlington Central. This will have a positive affect on each Secondary School’s utilization rate which will buy us sufficient time to validate what our ultimate Elementary & Secondary School Network should look like and how best to transition to it.”

The benefits doing this include:

protects capital and staff investments which have already been made at Robert Bateman and Lester B Pearson.

provides flexibility in the board’s capacity response to spikes in future enrollments in Burlington North by enabling three Secondary Schools to respond.

Benefits Grade 7 & 8 students through exposure to a wider range of programs and opportunities such as the technical trades at an earlier grade.


Current elementary school catchment boundaries will need to be reassessed and redrawn as required.

Current secondary school catchment boundaries will need to be reassessed and redrawn as required.

Elementary schools may result in underutilization and thus may have to close.

Skinner added that “In the case of Lester B Pearson, I believe that the short-term risk for closure is too high because too much is dependent upon redirecting student enrollments associated with Dr. Frank J. Hayden to other Burlington-North Secondary Schools. I believe that this risk could be mitigated through Trustee led community discussions to seek agreements for student enrollment to Burlington-North Secondary Schools.”

Skinner then enlarged his field of view and said: “We need to consider the City of Burlington’s revised Official Plan, currently in draft, which identifies 8 major areas of intensification. They are:


The city’s latest approach to directing growth.

the Downtown Core and related Downtown Mobility Hub;
Uptown Centre located at Appleby and Upper-Middle Road;
Mobility Hubs which surround the Aldershot,  Burlington and Appleby GO stations;
The Fairview St. Corridor, and
Most major plazas

The intent is to provide for mixed-use of residential, retail and commercial development of these lands. This will likely take the form of:

relocating the bulk of ground level parking underground or into multilevel purpose built parking towers;

locating retail and/or commercial on the ground and lower floors which comprise the podium of mid-height and high-height residential buildings; and

integrating townhomes and/or stacked townhomes.

An illustration as to what is envisioned, can be found on the east side of Appleby Line from Corporate Dr. to Iron Stone Drive, just below Upper-Middle Rd. Please note that most of these areas of intensification are in South-Burlington. Regardless as to location, they must be considered in future Long Term Program Accommodation (LTPA) plans.

Appleby - East side south of dundas

Appleby Line from Corporate Dr. to Iron Stone Drive, just below Upper-Middle Rd

Given the information above, Skinner “questions as to whether we will have sufficient capacity in South Burlington in the longer term to warrant the closure of Robert Bateman which is best positioned to serve the proposed Appleby GO Mobility Centre.

He suggests “Partitioning Secondary Schools permits us to restore some of the Secondary School catchments back to what they were prior to the erection of Frank J. Hayden which covers North-East Burlington. Then we would adjust each Secondary School catchment to accommodate our best forecast of student enrollments from new residential neighbourhoods.

Bateman high school

Should the Boar of Trustees go along with what the Director of Education has recommended Bateman high school would be closed, demolished and the programs they deliver would be distributed to other high schools.

“Regardless as to which, if any, Burlington Secondary Schools are to close, I believe we are dependent upon HDSB to ensure that current students who are most vulnerable to change and those who seek a career based upon Technical Trade Skills.

“Accommodation of these students and their programs will require significant investments to any Secondary School which is to receive them.

Nelson HS aerial rendering

Many of the programs currently offered at Bateman high school would be transferred to Nelson high school. New facilities would have to be built – at a cost of $12 million

“I seek clarification for the statement made that “ Nelson will need to add technical shops and special need facilities to accommodate students transitioning from Robert Bateman.”

Skinner concedes that “that we have some uncomfortable decisions to make. The decision to even contemplate the closure of one or more secondary schools has a significant impact to the community fabric.”

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