District school board staff recommending the closure of two high schools June 2018 - Central and Lester B. Pearson.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

October 4th, 2016



Burlington does not take to change all that well.

A change in the configuration of traffic lanes on New Street has everyone up in arms – both those wanting the change and those opposed to a change.

The Halton District School Board has told the public, via the release of the agenda for the October 5th regular board meeting, that two of the city’s high school “could” be closed effective June 2018.

Burlington has seven high schools:

Aldershot High School,
Burlington Central High School,
Dr. Frank J. Hayden Secondary School,
Lester B. Pearson High School,
Nelson High School,
M.M. Robinson High School and
Robert Bateman High School

A recommendation to close two of the seven Burlington Central High school and the Lester B. Pearson high School, has left the community thunderstruck.


Central High – the school in th downtown core is where the biggest battle to remain will take place. The ward alderman has already come out against closing the school – fortunately the school board trustee might give the decision more thought and wait until there is more in the way of public feed back.

Feathers flew, school board trustees were inundated with phone calls and emails. One can expect all kinds of misinformation to get in the way of what the board is being asked to approve.


The spunk and school pride at Lester B. Pearson may not transfer to M.M. Robinson where most of the students will transfer to in the 2019 school year.

Some things to keep in mind: Staff prepare reports, they work within the provincial guidelines and have a collection of acronyms that that can’t be used in a Scrabble game.  The staff report goes to the trustees – those men and women you elected two years ago – they are going to make the decision on your behalf.

There is a well-developed process for community input – use it before you lose it.

The proposed time line, assuming the trustees, go along with the staff recommendation is as follows:

If the Program and Accommodation Review proceeds as scheduled the following is a proposed timeline for the implementation staff recommended (they are considering 19 different options)

Completion of a PAR with a Final Decision in 8 – 9 months

Capital Priorities Application and Funding  takes 3 – 6 months

Transition Planning takes  1 year

Pre-Construction and Construction (project dependent) 1-3 years

School Closing June 2018

Now to those acronyms – try to remember them – the process doesn’t make much sense without some understanding of what the Gazette has come to call “board speak”

PAR – Program and Accommodation Review
As outlined in the Board PAR policies, the Director must prepare a Preliminary Report which identifies a school or group of schools that may be considered for a Program and Accommodation Review. In order for a PAR to be initiated, one of five conditions must be met. The conditions are as follows:

1. The school or a group of schools has/have experienced or will experience declining enrolment where On-The-Ground Capacity (OTG) utilization rate is below 65%;

2. Reorganization involving the school or group of schools could enhance program delivery and learning opportunities;

3. Under normal staffing allocation practices, it would be necessary to assign three or more grades to one class in one or more schools;

4. The current physical condition of the schools negatively impacts the optimum operation of the building(s) and program delivery;

5. In respect of one or more of the schools under consideration there are safety, accessibility and/or environmental concerns associated with the building of the school site or its locality.

LTAP – Long Term Accommodation Plan is something done by all school boards annually.  The plan is  adopted by the Board of Trustees. The document provides enrollment projections for the upcoming ten years for all schools in Halton.

PARC Program and Accommodation Review Committee is an advisory group that acts as an official conduit for information shared between the Board of Trustees and their communities. The PARC will meet, review information, provide feedback from the community, and suggest options.

Each PARC consists of a Trustee and Superintendent from an area outside of Burlington; Principal or designate, two parents/guardians

Utilization rate – the percentage of the capacity that is being used.


The table set out above shows enrollment estimates for the next ten years, the capacity of all the high schools in the city; the percentage of that capacity that is being utilized and the amount of space that is available. These numbers are for all the high schools – a breakdown of the numbers for each school is set out below.

Staff are recommending that two high schools be closed in June of 2018:
Lester B. Pearson be closed and the current student population be sent to M.M. Robinson which is 1.6 km away.


The Utilization rate is just too low to justify keep the school open. Lester B. Pearson High School, Grades 9-12, located north of the QEW between Guelph Line and Walker’s Line. The school offers English and Late French Immersion programming. It is the only school in Halton to have Late French Immersion. Late French Immersion begins in Grade 7 at Sir E. MacMillan Public School. Growth from infill developments are included in projections. The utilization is 65% and it is expected to decline. There currently is an excess of 220 spaces in the facility. Enrollments in Grades 9-11 English are expected to be less than100 students per grade. The board staff may have failed to recognize the changes taking place between Guelph Line and Walkers Line – east and west and between Upper Middle and Mainway – north south. Real Estate agents will quickly tell you that multiple families are living in a single detached house with basements being converted into a bedroom for four and six children. Many of these families are from the Middle East and culturally they are comfortable with a large family in the house – this is the way they choose to live because it is the only way they can afford houses in that community.


The Burlington Central facility houses elementary and secondary school classes (Grades 7-12) and is located within the downtown core. Combined with adjacent Central PS (K – Grade 6), this facility forms a part of a K-12 campus. This school offers English and French Immersion programming. Enrolments are projected to be stable. Growth from infill developments are included. The high school’s utilization is expected to remain stable at 68% capacity. In 2015, there were 376 available pupil places in the facility. Burlington Central is the only facility without an elevator/stairlift. The sports field lands are not owned by the Halton District School Board.

Staff is recommending that Burlington Central HS be closed effective June 2018. All secondary students, west of Brant St., will be redirected to Aldershot HS and secondary students east of Brant St to be redirected to Nelson HS.

This recommendation does not include the redirection of Grade 7 and 8 students from the Burlington Central Elementary PS.

In the event that the decision is made to close this high school, there is a potential that a Program and Accommodation Review may be required for the elementary schools that currently feed into Burlington Central PS for Grades 7 and 8.

The enrollment, utilization ans space available in the other five schools is as follows:


Located within the Aldershot community in southwest Burlington, the Aldershot facility houses elementary (Grades 7-8) and secondary classes (Grades 9-12). It is the only Grade 7-12 school available west of QEW/407 ETR. This school offers English and French Immersion programming. Enrolments are projected to decline beyond 2020. In 2015, there were 327 available pupil places in the facility. Growth from infill developments and North Aldershot Planning Area developments are included in the projections. The high school’s utilization is currently 78% and is expected to increase to 83%, by 2019. It is projected there will be close to 100 English secondary students per grade (excluding Grade 12).

Aldershot High School


Nelson High School, Grades 9-12, is located south of the QEW between Walker’s Line and Appleby Line. This school offers English, French Immersion, and Secondary Gifted Placement. Enrolments are expected to increase over the next ten years. Growth from infill developments are included in the projections. Nelson HS utilization rates are expected to remain above 80%. Nelson HS has the second highest high school utilization in Burlington. There is an excess of 343 available places at this school in 2015. There is support for a Nelson Stadium Revitalization project between the community, Board and Burlington staff.

Nelson High School


M.M. Robinson High School, Grades 9-12 is located north of the QEW between Guelph Line and 407 ETR. The school offers English, French Immersion and SC-SPED programming. It is one of two schools to offer SC-SPED programming in Burlington. The SC-SPED program was added to the school in 2013. Growth from infill developments are included in the projections. The utilization is below 55% and is expected to decline. There is currently an excess of 617 spaces in this facility.

M.M. Robinson High School


Robert Bateman HS Robert Bateman High School, Grades 9-12, is located south of the QEW between Appleby Line and Burloak Drive. A small area known as Samuel Curtis Estate in Oakville is directed to this school. The school offers English programming, International Baccalaureate programming (IB) and a variety of Self Contained-Special Education (SC-SPED) programs. Robert Bateman High School is the only school in Burlington to offer the IB program. This program attracts students from senior elementary schools in the Burlington area. This high school is one of two schools to offer SC-SPED classes and as such, this school has specialized facilities to accommodate the programs. Growth from infill development is included in the projections. Utilization is below 65% and is expected to decline. There currently is an excess of 500 spaces in the facility. The combined English program and IB program is expected to be under 100 students per grade (excluding Grade 12), by 2022. Hayden is already over-utilized and there are three new developments that are going to feed into the school – the third is the development at Dundas and Walkers Line.


Dr. Frank J. Hayden Secondary School, Grades 9-12, is Burlington’s newest high school located in Alton Village, north of Dundas St. It opened in 2013 and offers English and French Immersion programming. Enrolments are expected to increase. It is the only high school in Burlington that is currently above total capacity (2016) and is expected to continue to grow until 2021. Growth from new development west of Guelph Line and north of Dundas Street, and infill development is included in the projections. Current utilization is 118%. A major development application has been submitted after projections have been created for the 2015-2016 LTAP in the Evergreen Community, located north of Dundas St., and west of Tremaine Line. This area has not been assigned to a specific school. The development consists of 907 residential units. The City of Burlington is in the midst of creating a secondary plan. It is anticipated that there will be approximately 50 secondary students from this area. The closest high school to this development is Dr. Frank J. Hayden SS.

Using the space that is available in a school if there aren’t enough bums to put in the seats.

The province recently gave the school boards permission to rent out some of their space to community organizations.

The Community Planning and Partnership Guidelines directs Boards to identify potential partnership opportunities and to share such opportunities with government agencies and parties that expressed interest for such opportunities.

In response, the Halton District School Board adopted the new Community Planning and Partnership Policy on October 21, 2015. The first annual Community Planning and Partnership meeting was held on June 22, 2016, in Burlington.

Approximately eight organizations had representatives at this meeting. There have been three follow up meetings and preliminary inquiries with interested partners since June 2016. At this time, there has been expressed interest in potential partnerships, but no specific details related to a partnership within a Burlington secondary school.
So that opportunity isn’t going to save either of the two high schools.

What is possible with both is re configuring them into affordable housing which is a Regional responsibility. However, surely the Region could pick up the telephone and call the school board and ask: ‘What do you think of the idea of selling the buildings to a developer we can convince to take on such a project.’

Have a chat with the four major developers who want some additional height and density and suggest a proposal to turn a high school into affordable housing units might elicit a favourable response to more height and density.

None of the developers in this city are interested in including affordable units in their buildings – they are marketing a lifestyle that doesn’t include people who can’t afford a unit that is going for something north of $400,000

Closing one high school in a community the size of Burlington would be a big deal – suggesting that two be closed at the same time is a bigger piece of meat than th school board can chew through in the time frame they have given themselves.

These decisions are Burlington decisions – but there are school board trustees from Oakville, Milton and Halton Hills – what impact will their votes have on a Burlington situation?

Interesting times ahead – stay tuned.getting new - yellow


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6 comments to District school board staff recommending the closure of two high schools June 2018 – Central and Lester B. Pearson.

  • G. Stevenson

    Oh what a disposable world we live in! More school busses and yet there is a lack of school bus drivers now.
    Mega bucks for the school boards when the developers get ahold of prime land!!

  • Stephen White

    School board officials and trustees really are a short-sighted lot. The notion that the only school facilities worth preserving are warehouses in north Burlington capable of handling over a thousand kids is incredibly short-sighted. So too is the notion that the only possible use for a school building is a school.

    Multi-use facilities are the norm everywhere today. The focus should be upon utilization even for varying purposes. Twenty years ago in south-east Burlington Joseph Brant Hospital took over space in Mohawk Public School and used it for a Stroke Recovery Centre. The operation lasted about ten years and was quite successful. The parking lot could easily accommodate handivans, and the building was easily made accessible for those using wheelchairs and ambulatory devices.

    As the demographics of neighbourhoods evolve over time these buildings can be adapted. As writer Greg Woodruff has so accurately noted “Schools are community places”. If you tear down a school you lose future access to the property if it becomes a multi-storey residential building. Moreover, busing kids all over Burlington is not a viable option.

    School trustees need to start thinking outside the box and come up with more innovative and creative solutions than closure.

  • Steve

    Just think how many skyscrapers with 300 square foot condos could be built on those old school grounds?

  • StoneyCanuk

    Who are these idiots! The city wants hi-rise apartments and increased density and now the School Board wants to close the local schools. Similarly the City wants to get people out of their cars and walk or cycle but meanwhile the School Board wants to bus kids everywhere!

    I’m also sure the School Board are thinking that Central High School is sitting on land that the developers would love to get their hands on… then we would have more housing, more children and more buses!

    The City and School Boards should be talking about their vision before going public with this fear mongering.

  • John

    The board report makes it clear, this recommendation represents a starting point for discussion regarding Burlington high schools and may not be the final recommendation that comes before the board for a final decision.

    It’s unfortunate, as you say the ward alderman? has decided the outcome prior to the trustees making any decision or considering resident input.
    Fear mongering serves no useful purpose and should be discouraged, let the trustees do their job, the lynch mob mentality doesn’t help the process.

  • I object totally to the habit of “power plant” schools that bus kids in from all over. Local community schools are a big asset and though I realize it causes difficulty to maintain them – I’d keep them. They don’t need to keep the same format if we have less students. We can have more facilities and less school. Aldershot is a good example with the attached pool. But the basic habit of local schools kids can walk too needs to be kept.

    I mean it’s such a joke that you are going to “transform” transportation in Burlington – while moving all the stores and now schools to the north – then drive kids every place.

    Schools are community spaces – and even if closed the spaces around them – bought and maintained by tax payers – need to remain community spaces. 100% community spaces. You can change it into parks, sports fields (which down town needs by the way) and other public spaces, but you can’t change it into a private space.

    It once again is a total creation of public tax dollars and the spaces need to remain public.