Has a Lester B. Pearson high school alumni done work the Board of Education planners should have done and solved the well over capacity at Hayden and given Pearson the students it should not have lost?

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

May 1st, 2017



It is amazing what comes to the surface when a problem is set out before the people it is going to impact.

Rory Nisan is a Lester B. Pearson alumni. He doesn’t want to see the high school that prepared him for university and the career he has today closed.

However Nisan isn’t moaning about the community losing a school that everyone loves; he has set out a number of options that appear to be sound.

Here is what Nisan proposes: He deserves a hearing;.

(1) Send Kilbride PS students back to Pearson.

Result: 116 students sent back to Pearson, where their older siblings attended. Hayden gets relief; Pearson gets students.

Note: The Director claimed at the Committee of the Whole meeting that Hayden HS was closer to Kilbride than Pearson. In fact, there is a 200 metre difference (14.6 km to Hayden, 14.8 km to Pearson).

(2) Maintain decision to send Alton West students to MM Robinson

Result: MM gets 40 (or more) students.

(3) ‎ Make all of CH Norton a feeder school to Pearson. This unites the public school to a single, nearby high school, and rectifies the unfair catchment boundaries, which currently do not allow Pearson a fair number of feeder schools.

Result: Pearson gets 59 students, CH Norton students get to stay together.

(4) Send any students from the new prospective development at Havendale Lands (West of Brant, South of Upper Middle) to MM Robinson (units TBC)

Result: MM gets students.

(5) Send all Florence Meares students from Hayden to Pearson

Result: Pearson gets 237 students; Hayden gets relief. Meares graduates no longer have to cross Dundas street to reach Hayden.

(6) Send late French Immersion students to MM Robinson from Macmillan

Result: MM gets 156 students

(7) If Bateman closes: MM Robinson receives ESS, Gifted, CPP and Leap programme from Bateman where student is north of the HWY (~110 students). We do not advocate closing Bateman, and we don’t need these students. But if Bateman must be closed to deal with utilization in the South, MM Robinson should receive these students so they do not have to travel too far (as outlined in the Director’s Final Report).

Result: less distance for these students to travel

(8) At a future date, commit to sending an appropriate distribution of students from new developments to the three schools based on updated estimates and location of developments (Adi development: 602 units; Valera road: 400 units; Evergreen Community: 907 units).

Result: Flexibility to re-balance utilization numbers based on changes 1-7 above.

Nisan figure 1

This graphic demonstrates the total number of students at Pearson if Pearson were to have the four listed schools as it catchment, and if late French Immersion were sent to MM, based on elementary school data today (697 estimated). It also indicates how many students MM would add if it were to receive Late French Immersion students (156 estimated).

Nisan figure 2

New catchment boundary for Pearson based on changes (Kilbride not shown). Red = Hayden; beige = M.M. Robinson; blue = Pearson

If Bateman doesn’t close, MM Robinson adds 137 students, plus Havendale Lands Development, plus possible future distribution of other new developments.

If Bateman closes, MM Robinson add 247 students, plus Havendale Lands Development, plus possible future distribution of other new developments.

Pearson adds 266 students, plus possible future distribution of other new developments.

Hayden subtracts 353 students, and then will add possible future distribution of other new developments.

This straight-forward proposal puts all three school in the North at sustainable utilization levels.

What’s killing Pearson is choking the school of its elementary feeder schools.  The Board has never explained any rationale for this decision and the trustee has never asked why it was done.

Will Nisan get a hearing; does he have the support of his school trustee?

Nisan isn’t the only Pearson alumni who has concerns over what has been done to the school.  George Ward attended the meeting at which Director of Education Stuart Miller explained what he had set out to do in his recommendation after which he answered questions.

Ward had some questions of his own but learned hat he wasn’t allowed to ask questions.  That didn’t seem to bother him – he bellowed out a question which led to the Chair of the meeting insructing the trustees to stand and leave the room – the meeting was over.

Ward wanted to know  if the HDSB forecasts are for 10 years and updated yearly then why is the Director of Education recommending the closure of two high schools three years and a few months after the new school was opened?

Ward thinks the Director  based his  recommendation on a  chart showing projected enrollments.

Ward graphis

George Ward has a problem with this chart – he thinks the data behind it are flawed.

Ward thinks the process of forecasting projected enrollment must be called into question – he is not alone in that point of view.  Has the Director of Education  made a recommendation  based upon defective forecasting?

Ward maintains “The process of closing Burlington High Schools is flawed and should be immediately halted and to pursue the action to “Save All Burlington High Schools”.

That decision was never the Director’s to make – it is in the hands of the trustees now.  They will get to hear delegations from the public on May 8th and 11th – 25 delegations each evening – five minutes each.

The Program Accommodation Review was flawed from the day it started; to a considerable degree because the way the province set out the regulations that had to be followed.  This was compounded by the problems the Board staff had with publishing data the public was prepared to believe because it kept changing.

Trustees - fill board +

There is a crisis of confidence in the Board of Education trustees.

There was and still is a crisis of confidence.  Will the trustees sand up for the public that elected them – or will they role over and do what the Director of Education has recommendation.

The trustees are there to lead – when the Chair Kelly Amos chooses to not actually attend the meeting but take part by telephone conference call – one wonders where the leadership is coming from.

If the Chair was ill and not able to actually attend – a simple brief media release could have informed the public.

Of the 11 trustees just the one distinguished herself; Amy Collard had tough questions and when she didn’t get answers that satisfied her – she made sure the Director of education know she was not pleased.

The public now has time to delegate and make a case for a specific decision.  This isn’t the time to complain about one group of parents throwing a school under the bus; this is the time for the leaders of the different schools to meet and come up with a strategy and take it to the trustees.

PARC the Aldershot delegates

Ian Farewll could be talked into another meeting and Steve Cusson would still be at PARC meetings if they had let him.

There were some very talented people involved in the PARC process. Lisa Bull from Bateman, Steve Cussons  from Aldershot, Steve Armstrong from Pearson and Kate Nazar from Nelson to name just a few – need to make phone calls to each other. Ian Farewell can be convinced to attend one more meeting.

Bull brought small bottles of wine to the closing PARC meeting to hand out.  Buy a case of the stuff and get the parent leaders in the same room and work it out.

What city Councillor Meed Ward is going to do at this point is anybody’s guess.  She is know to enjoy a glass of wine, perhaps that will stir the leadership gifts she does have.

The current crew of trustees do not appear to be able to do the job – the parents that elected them are going to have to step in and give them some guidance.

There isn’t a lot of time left.




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17 comments to Has a Lester B. Pearson high school alumni done work the Board of Education planners should have done and solved the well over capacity at Hayden and given Pearson the students it should not have lost?

  • Sharon

    Thanks for implying the rest of the PARC kept seats warm. Much appreciated!

  • LBP Alumni

    Bernstein, I hope some additional info can make you reconsider your view on supporting the staff’s recommendation, which many believe didn’t receive proper due diligence.

    You’re right that Pearson sits in close proximity to MMR but this does not take away from its need above the QEW at this point in time.

    You only see the numbers going to Pearson in this report (not something purposely left out by The Burlington Gazette, it wasn’t provided). Sending all FI classes in the north to MMR boosts population above 90% (currently 48%). More students are expected to feed into the school through planned developments in the area beyond this as well. MMR’s capacity is well addressed in this solution.

    The realignment would also relieve population pressure at Hayden.

    Lastly and importantly, it SAVES CLOSING A COMMUNITY’S HIGH SCHOOL!! Something all parents should appreciate.

    Closing Pearson will only make the situation worse in the north; Hayden will remain packed beyond OTG and MMR will shoot past its own OTG limit. This without considering new developments in the north or generational turnover in the community.

    • Bernstein

      LBP, I dove back into the information as you have suggested. I have considered my opinion in doing so, and ultimately remain of the view that the Board’s recommendation is the right one. But that’s ok and to be expected in debates like this. I appreciate the civil discourse and rational discussion. It’s often lacking around the comments section of this website. I agree with other comments that you are doing a great job advocating and making the best case you can for Pearson staying open. I just don’t agree that it is the right decision.

      Your proposal cherry picks the rural Burlington, CH Norton (taken away from MMR) and Meares ENG stream kids to bump up Pearson’s numbers. I would call these the “stable” or “certain” numbers. It also results in a couple bits of absurdity, where CH Norton kids living directly across the road from MMR won’t be going there, and Meares kids living directly across the road from Hayden won’t be going there.

      I call that first group that you allocate to Pearson more stable and certain compared to the numbers you are using to suggest that MMR will be well utilized. You allocate the 110 Bateman ESS, gifted, CPP and Leap program students to MMR. Those are highly specialized programs that while increasing the diversity and vibrancy of the school, don’t add to the core ENG numbers that would allow for greater/more option/stream programming. As the report notes, this is a significant benefit to the students in preparing them for post secondary education or training.

      The second allocation you make for MMR is the future development group. The likely reality based on past development is that new single detached homes in these new developments will be occupied by young families. They will not have much if any impact on secondary schools for 20 yrs.

      The last group of less stable or certain numbers you allocate (and the Board) to MMR is the FI kids from Hayden feeder schools (as the kids already there are grandfathered), and the Macmillan FI kids. I suggest that these are uncertain numbers because they don’t take into account the significant amount of kids that will stop participating in the FI program after grade 8 because they (or their parents) want them going to Hayden with the rest of their friends or they had never intended FI at High school anyway. It is my understanding that there are a significant number of Orchard parents (and Beaudoin parents in Millcroft) that intend to pull out of HS FI now that it won’t be at Hayden. That is problematic for both MMR (which you would have us counting on to bring up the usage of MMR) and for the Board itself with respect to Hayden overcrowding.

      What does it all mean? There is no easy answer. After all if this, my bet is that the Board still ends up with overcrowding at Hayden (regardless of whether Pearson closes or not).

      • LBP Alumni

        The solution presented in this article does not cherry pick numbers. It brings Kilbride back to Pearson, where it always used to be, and ties in feeder schools that are around the Pearson community -Meares is in walking distance. It also avoids splitting CH Norton (currently divided btw Pearson & MMR). May not be perfect but it’s logical.

        Elementary schools do not sit right beside high schools so you’re bound to have areas where a student is very close to one high school but goes to another. Headon Forest students used to go to MMR despite being right at the foot of Pearson. The system should be able to handle the small numbers affected… it’s not a major issue.

        There is truth to what you mention in the ‘less stable’ numbers, I’ll admit, and I get a parent’s concern for having the best programming available for their child. FIs may not continue into high school, thereby diverting away from MMR, and special programs don’t boost numbers in the English program. But if that’s the only reason to close a school (low utilization in Pearson is pure BS), there hasn’t been enough effort to figure out how MMR and Pearson integrate to provide complete programming. Given proximity, why can’t they operate in a campus fashion? Has this been considered by the board?

        You say that our plan doesn’t do anything to address low utilization numbers at MMR, I say that following the staff’s hasty closure recommendation only props MMRs numbers and does little to address overcrowding at Hayden…maybe it even ends up with another school needed in the future.

        Realize the north’s utilization will be 117% in 4yrs without Pearson…and this without even factoring in students doing a victory lap, two new developments on Hwy 5 and generational turnover (ever heard of echo boomers??).

        The north needs Pearson.

  • Diane Miller

    I need to disagree with some of the items you have indicated in your reply. I am wondering if we read the same article. Not only does the author indicate a way to increase LBP population (with logic) but also MMR’s population. In this scenario the overcrowding at Hayden decreases with room for additional students (from potential new developments) which currently they cannot take due to over-capacity. The current proposal leaves Aldershot in status quo mode. Nelson already has 700 plus students which is why Miller indicated he couldn’t justify shutting it. However it will mean, with his proposal of shutting Bateman a $12 million build (the most expensive of all of the proposals) to add onto Nelson and make some renovations to MMR. It made no sense to shut Central with new builds in their area with all students having to be bused. Nor does the excuse that MMR and LBP are close to one another justify a closure, especially since Hayden was built knowing these two schools were in the area and that the build would in fact exacerbate the under utilization. Moot point now – it is built. What I would like to see, and this still has not been addressed/explored fully, is community partnerships, virtual classrooms, other innovative or best practices, to help utilize the under-utilization (including with some boundary adjustments). Even if some space is rented out to hold for the known growth that is coming it is wiser than throwing every school into over capacity.

  • LBP Alumni

    Tenni, although I would agree with you that empty seats needs to be addressed, I wonder if you’ve looked at the numbers throughout Burlington. In fact, realigning catchments and moving students around DOES address both factors that sparked the PAR; utilization and programs. Move students around strategically in the north and you have proper utilization + enough bodies to provide proper programming.

    Alternatives have not been reviewed or have been purposely skipped over by the board, this is clear for many people in Burlington.

  • tenni

    Moving students around does not solve the problem of too few bums overall in Halton for the number of physical spaces available. In order to reduce the physical seats reduction buildings must be closed. The province will not fund an empty building (s). When will people in Burlington understand this?

    • Bernstein


      Also, interesting to note that our larger neighbour to the east (oakville) has less public high schools than Burlington currently does.

    • Tom Muir

      Tenni and Bernstein,

      Moving students around, from the existing 6 (mostly 4), to overfill Hayden, was exactly what created the problem of too few bums compared to spaces available. Hayden built 1200 OTG, then added 460 portables, but Burlington didn’t need all these new seats.
      If some people like yourselves are okay with that because some people got a new school, it doesn’t change the fact that too many added seats were built, and that’s the problem that the Board created.

      Given that okay, you are then okay with reducing seats in the other schools that got drained. I don’t understand that unless you are Hayden parents with a stake in this.

      If you are not, then I can see that you don’t have the financing formula straight. The Ministry doesn’t fund buildings per se, they fund total enrollment, total number of bums, in the Board as a whole, with other programs etc., as an add on.

      The Ministry is not telling the Board to close schools – it’s our call how we spend the that part of the money they give us for accommodation costs – keeping all buildings open. That’s a little more than $100 million of a $700 million total budget for 2015/16.

      According to Miller’s report, it costs $564,000/yr to operate Pearson, and $764,000/yr for Bateman. Closing these 2 schools saves only about $2 million a year, when added busing costs, lost revenues, and staff reduction cost savings, are all accounted for (See Miller; busing costs noted there are incorrect).

      Whether schools close or not, all the rest of the Board budget are for instruction, and this nets out to null savings. So closing 2 schools saves only $2 million, but more than $12 million is needed to replace Bateman equipment somewhere else.

      This is trivial savings, and these are official numbers in Miller.

      And there are no empty buildings, just buildings that the Board has decided to overfill, and others to underfill. That’s a fact too.

      And as Bernstein says below – “After all if this, my bet is that the Board still ends up with overcrowding at Hayden (regardless of whether Pearson closes or not)”

      Look at the option 23e, in Miller, and the overall plan for Hayden from 2009, and you can see that Bernstein is correct, but also a little short on the crowd. According to that option outline, Robinson is also overfull by 2020.

      Parents that dug themselves out of their ruts of opinion, and dug deep into the data and information, understand well how the funding pencils out, and what closing schools really means in the financial facts.

      That’s why they know that moving kids around will definitely work, as closing schools saves trivial money and still won’t solve the problem.

      The problem is not financial! It is not fiscal! Closing buildings will not affect funding to any significant extent.

      Your continued mistaken assertion has been restated many times here, but it is wrong, not based on the funding facts. Try having a look.

      When will you people understand this?

  • Bernstein

    This proposal is not all that different from scenario 4b, already proposed (and not selected).

    I agree with the author’s comment that the Pearson’s problem is that it does not have many feeder schools. I would suggest that it has another problem as well. Similar to Nelson /Bateman, it is too geographically close to MM Robinson. If indeed schools need to be closed, it does not make sense to keep Bateman or Pearson open. ESPECIALLY considering the low utilization of MM Robinson. The author’s proposal funnels more students to Pearson (which makes sense if you are advocating to keep Pearson open). What it doesn’t do is make good use of MM Robinson at all. The under utilization of MM Robinson has been significantly under reported on during this whole saga. I agree with the author’s suggestion that the rural area be shifted back to MM. However, it makes much more sense for Pearson students to be directed to MM Robinson and Pearson closed along with Bateman.

    In a world where the school board didn’t need to worry about money and could all programing everywhere, all of the schools could stay open regardless of their utilization and waste of resources. But unfortunately we have reality to deal with. To me, given the geographic proximity to MM Robinson, it comes down to which of the two schools should remain to serve that geographic area. MM Robinson is simply better suited to do so, and will become an even better school as a result of the influx of new students. Same argument with Bateman and Nelson.

    I understand the Pearson community and the author suggesting that the boundaries be revised to pump numbers into Pearson. While that may help reduce numbers at Hayden, it does little to make use of capacity at MM Robinson.

    I will be advocating for the trustees to follow the staff recommendations.

  • Gary Scobie

    Rory, you have put together some very thoughtful ideas for retaining Pearson as a viable school. I agree with Jeremy that you should apply to delegate to the Board. Using facts and not just emotion should make your case and the chance of being accepted as a delegate that much stronger.

  • Jeremy Skinner

    Good article.

    If I were Rory Nisan or representative, I would submit an online Delegation Request Form for either date and attach a soft copy of relevant portions of this article.

    I would also send a soft copy of this article to each of the Burlington Trustees ASAP. Doing so permits the Trustees to formulate any relevant questions prior to the delegation night. Note: Time spent answering Trustee questions should not count against the allocated delegation time.

    The online delegation form can be found at


  • I think it’s pretty obvious that Pierson was stripped of feeder schools specifically to make closing it easier. The problem we have is that it’s easier to administer fewer schools. The benefits of the closer schools flow to the community and the public, the benefits of closing flow to administrators.

  • Deb

    Closing Bateman, and sending those essential and cpp students to MM, may benefit the north, however, NO part of Bateman closing will benefit the south. Nelson will now be over capacity, Central and aldershot will still be under utilized. This “solution” Director Miller is recommending, does not fix the problems of which they continue to say the PAR was based on. Someone is not doing their job.

    • Diane Miller

      The article does say that the writer is not advocating the closure of any school, but was also going by the proposal and addressing how boundary change would help.

    • Tom Muir


      I’m hoping you are the Deb that asked about financing and other policy stuff on this back a week or more ago. I said I would get back, but that story about the blow-back is dated. So seeing your name I thought I would provide some of the findings of my promised research.

      This comment is from several other lines of research on this and so may seem at times disjointed, but it’s all related to your questions.

      We have to argue strongly to the Trustees to see clearly that it makes no sense to close any schools, even by the criteria they use.

      It makes no sense fiscally or for the students. The declining utilization excuse is the Board Big Lie – look at the data and you see it didn’t start until Hayden opened, and only at the 6 schools, and 4 in particular.

      Anyways, I also have extracted some financials from the Miller report. There is a mistake in the busing for 23e – three different numbers – and the savings in operations from closing 2 schools is around just $2 million (correcting busing cost), but replacing Bateman special programs equipment is listed at almost $9.5 million, but at least $12 million has been mentioned, with more in there.

      Then the cost of decommissioning buildings, what about the pool, and so many other transition costs that are just ignored.

      So what kind of fiscal savings is $2 million out of a $700 million budget (0.003%), to be so crazy about?

      The only maybe money in this is the PODs, whenever that happens, after a lot more crap and rancor, and that is only a one-time cash-in, partly chewed up by transition costs.

      I have also done some financial and close planning analysis of the Option 23e that is the favorite. It shows Robinson overcapacity by 2020/21, and Hayden stuffed with trailers is already way over, continuing 2016/20.

      So why are we closing schools?

      I raised the issue before that nobody was thinking about us needing a new school in the not too distant future, while the Board wants to close some now. The other day, a comment in the Gazette said the same thing about a new school down the road.

      Then, I went to a North Aldershot meeting last Thursday night where the Halton planner told us about 500,000 more people coming to Halton ALONE under the provincial Growth Plan. We think this ludicrous, but on its face, don’t you think we need these schools in reserve?

      Unless I missed something else gained, the only other thing, which is possibly big money to help grease new schools somewhere by financing some repairs thus freeing up other reserves for new, is in the PODs from selling the two sites if closed.

      There’s lots in Miller on how PODs can be used, repairs are first, but new schools are also one thing but not all – this possibility is still there, but needs contact with Ministry.

      One thing that needs to be understood is how PODs flow in and out of the Board resources and reserves, and how schools are financed now. The PODs for particular surplus assets or schools, aren’t necessarily targeted to a particular new school. whether it be a new one now in Milton, or was used for part of Hayden.

      If schools are closed, they can be or are declared surplus, but it can take a long time for that to be realized as PODs. Once realized it goes into the POD reserves pot of the Board. There are new rules as of 2015, outlined in Miller’s report, that describe what they can be spent on. I note some of this above, but it’s best to go to Miller’s report, around page 22, where it is discussed along with financial and revenue impacts.

      Basically the PODs become a reserve asset of the Board that increases their power to build more new schools as they have more money to spend. It doesn’t mean they have to close schools to build new ones, or the Milton new school will be financed by closing 2 in Burlington.

      It’s not spelled out that plain and neat, but it helps and could turn out that way when you look at all the money in the Board pots.

      The Ministry gave money for Hayden without unrealized PODs (they had the unsold surplus assets already), and without immediate closures (which are possible future surplus assets) of other schools.

      The Ministry response to the Board Priorities submission including Hayden basically tells them to finance it themselves from their own financial capacity, suggesting some sources. The Board project(s) didn’t make it past the filters or criteria, so were not a Ministry priority.

      The Board proceeded using own financial capacity and has a plan that they have to submit to the Ministry as this is required to get Reserve transfers and approval before proceeding with tender.

      Subsequently, the Board needs to get further Ministry approvals – that’s the way it works if costs go up or financing plan is in deficit – because of financing shortfalls that involved both cost increases at tender, and shortfalls in realized PODs that were part of the POD committments (see letters) to the financing plan.

      Ministry steps up twice to fill shortfall. But we don’t know what the Board financing share was made up of exactly.

      Looks to me like Board proceeded with Hayden on their own decision, at suggestion of Ministry to finance from the Boards existing financial capacity, that it appears to the Ministry was sufficient to undertake.

      The Ministry basically said, if this is your priority, then if you can finance it, and show us that business case of financing, then go ahead, and ask for approval.

      The “business case”, included the Tables submitted as the Growth School Application by the Board, and the Tables in the Ministry FOI response, that included the commitment of PODs, and the consequential severe under-utilization of every school in Burlington except Hayden, because of transfers of students and feeders.

      This was all part of the business case right up front. Draining the Burlington 4, and re-configuring everything to get deliberate under-utilization, which would eventually lead to a PAR, foregone decision to close schools, and at some time, PODs.

      I showed these numbers today as a comment in another recent story here on Diane Miller’s paper.

      That was all in the plan, although the Ministry changed the rules some, but as of 2015 PODs can still be used for new schools with Ministry consult.

      Their financing of Hayden this way showed they didn’t need closures to give money.

      Next thing a new school will be wanted next to Hayden, or down here, with no place to put a school as we already know what will happen if ours go, or more busing somewhere, or some other bunch of really stupid outcomes.

      From the busing data, Hayden has 580 students bused, the most in the Board and the second most costly.

      We have to focus on showing the Trustees that based on their own criteria of fiscal, students, future, and the real net economic and money effects looked at closely it makes no sense.

      Bottom line is the community will lose 2 schools for a pittance, and will for sure have a lot of anger and bitterness to carry around for a long while while all the stupidity plays out.

      The analysis for Pearson here in the Gazette provides detailed options, and every school threatened can have such a plan penciled out.

      Bateman, such as it is, for the sake of the students, should never be closed. We need it, can easily afford it, and I don’t understand why it is targeted. Closing it with Pearson is the most costly option and it makes no sense at all.

      How does this fit Director Miller’s claim that this is all about students and what benefits them?

      Another lie.

      • Deb

        I am very grateful for the time and effort you put into answering my questions! Many thanks!