Closing Lester B. Pearson high school; rationale and implications.

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

April 22, 2017


Part 2 of a series on the Board recommendation to close two high schools in Burlington

Closing Pearson; Rationale

Lester B. Pearson High School has been experiencing a decline in enrolment for several years and that is projected to continue to 2026 and beyond.

There are parents at Pearson who have an easy explanation for the decline – one of which was limiting the number of feeder schools to 1.5 and another having students from Kilbride who used to attend Pearson get sent to Hayden which is running at 150% of it capacity.

LBP parent school meet april 2017

Pearson is a small high school – it didn’t have much in the way of resources to fight back. A parent group meeting to listen to what their trustee had to tell them.

Pearson is the smallest of the high schools in the system. It is situated on a lovely piece of property; has three gymnasiums, one of which was paid for by the parents in the community. It also houses a nursery that has been in operation for more than 40 years.

LBP students by year


Lester B. Pearson High School is also the only school in the Halton District School Board that provides Extended French at the secondary school level. The students in this program begin extended French in Grade 7.

The result of this low enrollment is a diminished ability for the school to provide the same breadth and range of programs for the students as other schools in Halton. In order to take specific or desired courses, many students have resorted to online offerings.

This situation will be exacerbated as it is expected the number of students attending Lester B. Pearson High School will decrease by an additional 70 students by 2025.

Another issue occurring as a result of low enrollment is the impact on the students’ pathways.
At present, the numbers reflecting Lester B. Pearson High School students’ pathway choices are as follows:

LBP pathway choices

Unfortunately the low number of students and staff has prevented the school from providing the same breadth of programming offered in other Halton District School Board schools. This is most evident given the low number of students in applied programming and subsequently the college pathway, resulting in these students having fewer options or little flexibility in selecting courses they can take.


Kim’s family chose to move into the Pearson high school community because they wanted to send their children to a small high school. when Pearson was built it involved the community that paid for an additional gymnasium.

Schools are required to provide a pathway to graduation for all students. This means the school will have some smaller classes (for example, 11 students in Grade 9 Applied), and in order to be compliant with staffing formulas and provincial mandates, will have some larger classes to offset the smaller numbers. Consequently, not only is the range of course selection not available to students but there is also a greater disparity between class sizes.

Again this is likely to be exacerbated as the projections indicate a continued decline in enrollment.

Lester B. Pearson High School is 1.9 kilometres from M.M. Robinson High School. Students who currently attend Lester B. Pearson High School are within the walking distance to M.M. Robinson High School. A closure of Lester B. Pearson High School will not result in an increase in bussing costs for the Halton District School Board.

At present there is a nursery school located in Lester B. Pearson High School. This is a long- standing relationship between the City of Burlington and the Board, and since the mid-1970s has become part of the fabric of the Lester B. Pearson High School community.

If the recommendation to close Lester B. Pearson High School is approved, the Halton District School Board will engage with the appropriate municipal partners to investigate available options for a continued relationship with the Halton District School Board.

Lester B. Pearson High School has served its students and community very well for the past 40 years; however, its enrollment has been in decline for some time. It is currently less than 65% of capacity, and by 2025 it is expected to decline to 55%.

Based on the two identified criteria for a program and accommodation review (PAR):

1. The school or group of schools has/have experienced or will experience declining enrollment where on-the-ground (OTG) capacity utilization rate is below 65%.
2. Reorganization involving the school or group of schools could enhance program delivery and learning opportunities.

LBPearson aerialLester B. Pearson High School meets the criteria for a PAR, and subsequently is recommended for closure.

Implications of Recommendation
Closure of Lester B. Pearson High School, and the resulting movement of the English program to M.M. Robinson High School

Program Changes: With the closure of Lester B. Pearson High School:

• the Extended French Program will move to M.M. Robinson High School.
Changes to program offerings at M.M. Robinson High School include:

• September 2018, the Regional Re-engagement Program (REP) will move from M.M. Robinson High School to Burlington Central High School.

• NOTE: the second Community Pathways Program (CPP) will continue at M.M. Robinson High School.
Student Movement:

With the closure of Lester B. Pearson High School:
• September 2018, English program students will move to M.M. Robinson High School.

• September 2018, Extended French program students will move to M.M. Robinson High School.

• September 2018, Grade 8 students from C.H. Norton Public School will move together to M.M. Robinson High School as a cohort (English and French Immersion)

Other Considerations:
• Facility enhancements or additions to address program needs at M.M. Robinson High School re: Community Pathways.

Rory Nisan spent his high school career at Pearson.  He isn’t the biggest guy you will meet- small in staure but he made it to the Pearson Rugby team and knows that he wouldn’t have had that kind o an opportunity at a larger high school.

LBP George Ward + Rory Nisen

Two former Pearson alumni trading phone numbers.

Nisan believes there is a case – a strong case for smaller high schools where students can find themselves and not get lost in the hectic life of a bigger high school.

Many of the parents at Pearson felt the die was cast when their school was named on the original recommendation – theirs was a small parent group – they didn’t have the resources that the bigger high schools had.

Can they make a case for being kept open?  Everyone you listen to will say Burlington’s growth is north of the QEW; Hayden is way beyond it capacity.  The Evergreen community (at Tremaine and Dundas) yet to get started is going to have students that will need a high school.  The Link2 at Sutton and Dundas is going house some families.

The Alton 2 project on the west side of Walkers Line will have their children be bused to M.M. Robinson when Hayden high school is yards away.

No one knows if the Adi Development is going to get the approval it wants from the Ontario Municipal Board – the city turned that one down – but don’t expect the Adi people to give up.  That project will add to the Alton community student population.

Pearson has a case.

One observant Pearson parent wondered why the closing date for their school was June of 2018 – they wanted a chance to vote for whoever the trustee was going to be in the October 2018 municipal election.

Closing Lester B. Pearson high school may be just a little short sighted – but that isn’t the first time this Board has been short sighted.

Part  1 of a series on the recommendation to close two high schools in Burlington

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3 comments to Closing Lester B. Pearson high school; rationale and implications.

  • Sydney Lanteigne

    Instead of choosing the drastic option to close the school entirely, why not look into programming that would draw students to the school? Since Hayden is already so over capacity, it’s worth rearchjng why that happened, and the interests of these students to see if Pearson can fulfill those needs.
    Giving up on the school is sad and shameful. I’m not sure about the statistics, but in my experience Pearson had greater student moral and a stronger community than any other Halton high school. We were kind to each other, and there was very little bullying. Everyone knew everyone and it felt – warm.
    It might not be shiny and new, but it’s unique and has the potential to provide a lot of value to future students.

  • Kevin Morgan

    Closing Lester B Pearson is a very bad idea. The community has every right to be upset with this proposed closure.
    Hopefully the board, and those in positions of influence, will come to their senses and prevent this ill conceived plan from going through.

  • LBP Alumni

    HDSB has all along pointed to Pearson’s declining enrollment numbers for the reason to target it for closure, essentially claiming it can’t provide the same breadth of programming as at other schools.

    I think the board is actually robbing the Pearson community and needs to be taken to task for this. It’s really shameful!

    The numbers above show that LBP was at or above OTG capacity as recently as 2011 but then enrollment dropped like a stone once Hayden was opened – diverting catchments to Hayden are obviously the culprit. And no wonder the population continues to decline as programming becomes thinner and talk of the school being targeted to close build!

    Cut the BS Director Stuart Miller, don’t support the rationale to close this school under the premise enrollment has been suffering, really blaming population decrease on lack of need in the community. Just tell Burlington taxpayers the truth; you need to steal from the Burlington community to redeploy funds in Milton! If you really were focused on providing best programs for the kids and responsibly managing community assets, you would have properly planned to keep Pearson healthy back in 2013!