Part 3: Muir suggests a closer look at the options will produce a solution and that none of the high schools need to be closed.

opinionandcommentBy Tom Muir

January 18th, 2017


Part 3 of a series:

Tom Muir, an Aldershot resident, has been an active participant in civic affairs or more than 25 years. He has been described as “acerbic”, a fair term for Tom.
He has outlined, in considerable length, a large part of why the parents at Central and Pearson high schools are in the mess they are in as a result of the recommendation to close their schools. In this article, one of a series Muir suggest what he feels are obvious solutions to the problem the Board of Education believes it has. There is a lot of material; it gets dense at times. Living in a democracy means you have to accept the responsibility of citizenship and stay informed.

The Board of Education advised its trustees that there were 1800 empty seats in Burlington’s seven high schools. The Director of Education, Stuart Miller, brought forward a number of recommendations. The trustees decided to create a Program Accommodation Review Committee (PARC). That committee will begin its meeting later this month.

Miller engaging a prent at Central - ugly

Director of Education Stuart Miller, on the right engaging a parent at Central high school.

The PARC will review the data – there is tonnes of it, and send a recommendation to the Director of Education who will then make his recommendation to the trustees who will make a final decision as to whether or not any high schools should be closed. The schedule calls for this to be done by May of this year.

Other ideas are suggested by residents in the on-line conversations in the Gazette. There are other more inclusive lists of such ideas elsewhere. Surely, the Board staff and consultants, and education researchers, have a cornucopia of ideas that just need to be unleashed. As Rudyard Kipling said, “there are 99 and 9 ways to make tribal lays.”

This, I think, is a way to go to get to a plan fitting with the times, changing demographics and adaptability to such changes, fairness, and the patterns of the Growth Plan for Halton.

Even in their wildest imaginations - the Alton family would never have thought those farm fields would look like this - imagine the increase in value.

A new community was created when Hwy 407 was built. The Alton Village underwent significant growth requiring public and high schools. Some are not sure the high school was such a good idea..

It is just not right that existing residents are required to give up their schools, in order to build new schools in areas where the high growth in population is being directed under the force of the provinces’ orders in the Growth Plan.

Why should this be a forced confiscation in service of the province’s growth orders? Why should we pay for another part of the growth with our schools?

As I said, things are being taken too far in this insensitive and unlimited logic of efficiency, narrowly defined, leading to fewer and fewer schools in existing neighborhoods.

Once these school sites are gone, they are gone – there are no other places to site new schools. What kind of municipal and community planning is that?

And for those seeming to be okay with the closure of two high schools, as inefficient, and needing to be eliminated, I have to ask if they have ever considered what might be the limits of their criterion or their logic?


Burlington Central high school – the oldest in the city located in a neighborhood with intense loyalty to the place. There are some fourth generation students at the high school.

Do they propose to applaud this process year after year until “most efficient” and “biggest” become synonymous with “only”?

Do these schools have any value not subsumed under the heading of “efficiency”? And who benefits by their closure?

Is “any” degree of “efficiency” worth any cost in our schools?

Can progressively closing more and more schools be treated with such regardlessness, by merely asserting a justification that leaves out all the cultural and community values that they embody?

The point being that there must be limits imposed to this process before our cultural institutions of education have been corrupted to calamity.

This process is leading to no good, and is rotten politics.


Halton District School Board trustees sit at the back of the room during a December public meeting. From the left: Papin, Reynolds, Ehl Harrinson and Grebenc.

Some things the Trustees can do.
Hayden has 500 to 600 pupils too many in the LTAP forecast. The Board moved 600 to 900 from the area of concern, such as Pearson, Nelson, Bateman, and Robinson.  You can see this in the capacity utilization rates in the Board reports and reproduced in the Gazette.

They can simply move some number like the 600 back, as they have the power to do that, just like before, when they moved them out. We need to know what the numbers by school were that were moved to Hayden.

They can even shuffle students from Hayden around the Board SRA 100, which is also in the plan but only at a low scale. Shifting students and programs around all of Burlington, including SRA 100, can be considered.

SRA 100 as at 2015

Secondary Review Area where all the high school are concentrated.

Closing portables and using the bricks and mortar OTG capacity for students fits into using excess spaces, and is something that parents and students have expressed the desire to see. It will certainly be better for students.

Closing the 2 schools mentioned is reported to mean almost 600 more students from them need to be bused, increasing the number from 1000 to 1600.

So no closures, and moving students from Hayden back to the other schools – some of which is in the Option 19 for French Immersion at least – is a perfectly logical thing to do.

It will also save significant busing dollars (not specified in the reports I saw), that won’t need to be added to the already $15 million transportation bill of the Board as a whole, and will avoid big disruptions to students lives.

At least one or two SRA 100 schools are close enough that busing of students is not needed.

Again, shuffling the excess around, and changing the catchments accordingly are all possible and will facilitate the adjustments.


The Lester B. Pearson high school was “purpose built” with an extra gymnasium and a Day Care Centre.

The Halton Board has many programs scattered around, and these can be expanded perhaps by shifting some to schools with surplus space.

The Community Partnerships and Hubs outreach, partly funded and touted by the Province on their website as involving schools, can be tapped to expand uses of space.

The existing daycare at Pearson is exactly what the province mentions as one of the possibilities. What happens to that with a closure of Pearson and Central?

Where are these options in the plan? These things are obvious solutions.

I’m confident that the PARC members also have a great number of ideas, and they are much more intimate with the schools and what they want than I am.

Muir making a point

Tom Muir; an acerbic community advocate.

Tom Muir is a resident of Aldershot who has been a persistent critic of decisions made by city council. He turns his attention to the current school board mess. He recently suggested to Burlington city council that “If you are so tired of and frustrated by, listening to the views of the people that elected you, then maybe you have been doing this job too long and should quit.

Muir explains that the PARC will only get what people send in, what they come up with from their own efforts, and what they ask/demand from the board. They have to decide what they want and go after it ruthlessly. They will have to fight with tooth and claw and take no prisoners.

Previous articles in this series:

Part 1

Part 2

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1 comment to Part 3: Muir suggests a closer look at the options will produce a solution and that none of the high schools need to be closed.

  • Preschool parent

    Hi Tom,
    Thanks for including our Nursery School in your comments. Pearson Co-op has been in Pearson High School for 40 years. We are actually not a daycare, but a non-profit nursery school that offers 2.5 hour programs in the mornings or afternoons. We cater to families with one or more parents who stay or work at home, and therefore we have a really unique service offering. We have been at at least 90% utilization since our opening 40 years ago, showing that we are needed here in North Burlington.
    Our organization has pretty much been left in the dark about what the HDSB plans to do with us should the high school close. We found out about option 19 and the PAR in the same way that the public found out, despite the serious consequences to our organization, and our community partner status, we had no advance notice. It honestly seemed like they had forgotten about us. Months later, we are still very much in the dark, and are making hypothetical plans to move if we have to, however the prospect of relocating and the costs involved could be disastrous for our 40 year old organization.
    Thanks so much for your analysis, it is tremendously valuable.