Resident wants the school closing process to be halted by the Minister of Education

News 100 redBy Staff

February 24th, 2017



Gary Scobie

Gary Scobie

Burlington resident Gary Scobie wants the school closing process now asking place in Burlington halted. Here is what he had to say the provincial Minister of Education.

Dear Minister Hunter,

On February 16th I sent an email to Mr. Stuart Miller, Director of Education for the Halton District School Board (HDSB), on which you and other officials were copied. I discussed the how the PAR process happening in Burlington for our high schools has been mismanaged by the Board, leading to a probable conclusion to close our oldest school, Central High, in the downtown core while leaving our newest school, Hayden High, north of the QEW over-filled into portables and over-bussed.

Other schools are still in the mix for closure and catchment alterations. I have no vested interest in the outcome (our daughters were well-educated in Burlington and now live elsewhere as adults). I do not live in the downtown core, but see the possible loss of our oldest school, Central High, as damaging to the future prospects of our downtown residential, commercial and cultural livability.

In real estate, they say the three most important things are location, location, location. This could not be truer for any other high school in Burlington. Central High is part of the fabric that makes our downtown attractive to families. Having a local school that is walked to by 92% of the students means it is a school that deserves to stay and be refurbished to meet all accessibility and program requirements. The alternative, being promoted by the HDSB is to close it and bus the students to the far reaches of suburban Burlington in the east and the west, thereby gutting our downtown of any future attraction to families.

Our downtown is the key intensification area in the future, as directed by our Provincial Government. There will be more condos and stacked townhouses built as re-development occurs under provincial mandate. I believe we all want families to move into existing housing and these new forms of housing to be built in the downtown core, keeping it vital both commercially and culturally. Removing one distinctive hub (Central High) will do much to defeat this goal. Once it is gone, it will never reappear as land in the downtown will be too expensive to re-assemble by the Board.

There are other alternatives, but they have been given short shrift by the Board in this mismanaged PAR process. I therefore am requesting that you, as Minister of Education, investigate this PAR process as soon as possible and request a halt to it before irreparable damage is done to our student experience in Burlington. This process is, after all, to benefit students. In doing so, it should not damage forever the most important neighbourhood in our City, our downtown core neighbourhood.

Burlington is well-known as one of the best cities in Canada to live and age in. I want to protect that reputation. The changes in the schooling of our students have the power to either damage or promote this reputation going forward. The issue is too important to be decided only by the HDSB in a poorly executed PAR process. I ask that the PAR be halted and the catchment areas be adjusted to distribute students fairly in the neighbourhoods where they live, using all the existing schools for now. Take a break from the PAR, step back and consider if a PAR is actually in the best interest of Burlington students, and if it is, begin again, with all of the data accurate and complete this time and treat every school and every student in a fair manner from the beginning. Thank you for your consideration.

Gary Scobie
Burlington ON

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29 comments to Resident wants the school closing process to be halted by the Minister of Education

  • Steve Warner

    To Tom Muir. Capitulation is not my advise. It’s just reality. And I really appreciate being lectured to, like someone who has wet their pants. Thanks.

    • Tom Muir


      Sorry if you are offended, but my comments are not a lecture, not about you, but just a reaction to your comment.

      In fact, you do advise capitulation. What else would you call a strategy based on doing nothing?

      It’s not yet reality if you fight politically for what you would like to see.

      The fight may be lost, or won, but if you quit you lose for sure.

      You would create that reality by doing nothing in the present. Do you really think that waiting till 2018 to try to vote out who you think should be voted out, is an effective or workable way forward?

      Good luck from me to you on that approach.

  • Concerned Parent

    Very well said Karen! And thanks for noting the vicious comments now being flung around. Absolutely unnecessary, if the Board had only thought this through, and not made a recommendation that pitted schools against schools, communities against communities, but made a recommendation that something needs to be done, let’s figure it out together, best case scenario for ALL STUDENTS, and let each school represent themselves fully right out of the gate through the whole process. Then no one school would be blamed for getting a ‘head start’, while others had to be told directly and repeatedly that they should speak up.

  • Karen Osborne

    I have attended all PARC meetings. I have read and reviewed all the changing data presented. I have read all the opinions noted here and other media. I have seen parents against parents, parents against options for closing any school, parents going head to head with the HDSB (been quite vocal myself) and listened to the students who these decisions out right effect. At this time school communities are becoming quite vicious in comments to other school communities, thinking their students are more important than others. Comments suggesting what so special about BCHS students. So…all students deserve the best education, all students deserve to attend a school in their own community, less disruption and less time consuming and healthiest transportation available, portables are NOT an option and I don’t believe that classrooms magically appeared available at Aldershot. The downtown population will be increasing sooner than one knows. It is a fact kids live in condos and apartments. There will never be an opportunity to bring a secondary school back to the core. The political crap needs to end! The need to close a Burlington school to fund a Milton school is unacceptable. Are we really going to take away from Burlington students to better Milton students? Are we really going to allow this process to bring so much animosity to our kids and community? The answer has to be the best option and the less disruptive for our kids and the future of our city. There is too much division in our City.

  • Steve Warner

    Hayden should not have been built but it was. Why? Politics. Central or the other schools now targeted should not be torn down. Will they? Yes. The reason? Money. I predict Central will be one and likely Bateman (true name Elgin). The land is worth a fortune. Despite the acronym processes and protests it is all just a waste of time. The decision has already been made. Who suffers? Our kids. The only way to prevent this sort of nonsense going forward, is for the community to actually become involved, understand the issues and participate in elections. I thank this online newspaper for helping me understand the issues. Now vote in the next municipal elections people.

    • Tom Muir


      I can’t really blame you for holding your views in this way. The possibilities of pretty much everything you say are in the cards.

      However, your counsel is one of defeatism and despair. Wave the white flag, give up, surrender.

      You say we shouldn’t even fight because “it’s all a waste of time”.

      What to me is a waste of time is you telling us to wait until 2018, for the next election, and then “do something”.

      The people of Burlington should come to their senses and unite in what is really a common cause. To fight dictatorial confiscation of their schools in what the evidence shows is an outcome of a deliberate, planned, and executed plan by the HDSB.

      The plan was to build Hayden, financed in two ways; 1) by taxpayers through the Ministry, and 2) by dispositions of existing education assets.

      I almost missed this proposed financing plan in a small proposed Secondary School capital table, with only 2 words in the “funding” column – NPP/dispositions.

      It was also all in the plan to not tell anyone what was being built-in overall, in costs and consequences.

      Don’t have a PAR early on in the planning. True.

      Don’t tell residents that draining 18% of existing school students would lead to a PAR after it was done. True

      Don’t tell them a PAR would likely lead to another cost of Hayden – one or two of the existing schools. True.

      A protracted school against school fight that would get more and more bitter – turning parent against parent. All predictable and, so far, all true.

      This deliberate process smacks of Nazi tactics where they turned people against one another, and then came for them one group at a time.

      If this unfolding disaster for residents and parents and the City, funded by the residents and the city themselves, is not worth a war footing and unity of all, right now, then tell me please what is?

      Capitulation is your advice.

      It’s not mine.

  • vince Fiorito

    Older schools in older neighborhoods are underused. That might have something to do with recently building Dr. Frank J. Hayden Secondary School, rather than modernizing existing schools.

    Didn’t anyone do the math before approving a new school?

    Either this problem is a consequence of poor planning, or the people that originally approved building the new school, intended to shut down old schools from the beginning. This process appears to be just sales and marketing.

    The only way these schools could be saved now is with some creative out of the box ideas, that might involve cooperating/sharing space with the Halton District Catholic School Board or private schools.

    • Will

      I thought they were wanting to make a one board thing.What is happening with that?

      • vince Fiorito

        Merge the Catholic and Public school boards before we close schools and cut services.

        I would oppose changing the character and nature of the schools at the same time. That would be a different battle. The change would only be to eliminate duplication of effort and waste.

    • Tom Muir


      Yes, they did the math – you can see it in the LTAPs.

      Yes, they knew they overbuilt seats.

      Yes, they knew the existing 6 would be drained by about 18% or more, to fill Hayden.

      They mentioned that a PAR because of this would be needed, but didn’t have one to deal with the excess seats at the time it was being planned.

      I call this betrayal of the public trust – nothing less – and they are letting themselves get away with it.

      • Vince Fiorito

        Right now, Ontario has 4 school boards (English Public, English Catholic, French Public, French Catholic). Merging them would reduce costs by hundreds of millions through duplication of effort. Incentive to merge would be increased funding.

        I wouldn’t want to change the character or nature of any school. That’s another issue. This is strictly about eliminating duplication of effort, sharing resources and increasing school funding.

  • Paul

    Gary expresses quite clearly a few key points in this debate.
    Why such a contradiction with the provincial government stated goal of intensification versus closing a downtown school in the heart of dynamic city?
    The PAR process has been tortuous to most people directly or indirectly involved because it is predicated on a divide and conquer philosophy. By identifying schools for potential closure before the process even began to collect relevant information, set the stage for what was said earlier- it has turned neighbourhoods against neighbourhoods.
    For that, I hold the provincial government responsible. The Ministry dictated that a school closure recommendation, when so little evidenced based accurate apples to apples data had even been presented and reality tested, must be presented early on. Who does that…oh yes the government.
    I still have grave concerns with the overall presentation by the board on capital expentures for school, busing costs, portables and overcrowding issues, unlike other commenters.

    Lastly I commend Gary for reaching out to the Minister and expressing his views on this long and winding PAR road in Burlington. It baffles me to no end the all students and citizens of all of Burlington are subjected to this divisive process in order that the Wynne government finally eliminates “their” deficit. Not many years ago the same Liberal government, with a different leader, was OK dropping 1 Billion$ to cancel power plants in Oakville and Mississauga to ensue winning 2 liberal MPP seats in an election. Fast forward to this PAR by the HDSB and provincial funding can’t be found for one of the mostly poorly provincially funded boards to facilitate the HDSB in creating a school system that treats ALL Burlington students fairly and with respect.

  • Penny

    My children are grown and don’t require an educational institution, however, my grandchildren do. Perhaps it is time to fill the empty rooms that are being predicted with apprenticeship programs. Why can’t the school board think outside the box?

    If my children were going to be bussed only to sit in portables I would not be happy. I volunteer in what was once a school portable and it is not what I would consider a place for children to be, the heating is not consistent and there is cold/hot (depending on the season) air coming in at all times.

    One of the first questions that young families looking to purchase a home in an area ask is the availability of a school.

    • Will

      Penny.Agree.I thought the schools board already did the apprenticeship programs. Don’t they?I thought there were options that didn’t need portables.My own kids haven’t been able to buy in Burlington.

  • Lynn

    It is bizarre and shameful how the same government can be both in favour of promoting downtowns and intensification and mobility hubs and at the same time produce a process that closes downtown schools. The Ministry and Premier need to be receiving hundreds of letters like Gary’s, and phone calls too.

  • craig

    This letter is very confusing. Schools are and have been closed due to declining enrollment across the province what makes Burlington so special it should not have to address the lack of student issue? The letter mentions other options given short shift. What options are not part of the remianing 6 that have any merit? Does anyone know how many of the condo’s being built in downtown core are meant for families as I keep hearing they are why we need to keep Central? Can anyone tell me what how many hours a week Central or any of the Burlington High Schools are used by non-schhol activities such as to make them part of the fabric of the city? Like the writer I no longer have children in the school system and I also do not live downtown though I am downtown almost every week for one reason or another nad i am relatively new to Burlington having moved here in 1985. Unless the province no longer cares about declining enrollment lets close the school or schools that will impact the kids lest as it seems to be turning into a neighbourhood vs neighbourhood. Not healthy folks.

    • Yvonne

      Well said Craig !!!!!!!!

    • Tom Muir


      Like I said in another story here, just a few minutes ago, you seem to only ask questions – no answers – as your form of information free points and assertions.

      I have noticed you doing this a lot in this commentary section for a while.

      This is not argument. It’s not even discussion or debate.

      Questions are not even opinion.

      How about answering your questions with some substance?

  • Dan Lyons

    Agreed 100%. I also have no children, nor do I know anyone who attended Central ever but the need for this issue to be looked at by eyes other than those of the school board couldn’t be more obvious. A school is fundamental to the fabric of a neighborhood – just as Kilbride school defines the rural area and is the hub through which enormously impactful relationships are formed in the community (among other vital functions), Central high plays that role in downtown Burlington. The school board is simply not equipped to take into consideration the broader issues with a school closure.

  • John

    Well expressed opinion.

    Since the time you wrote to the minister, Feb 16, many of the issues you state have been discussed and considered by both the Board and PARC.

    Together with many other factors overcrowding, portables and bussing have received an rigorous debate, resulting in the remaining six options chosen by the PARC for consideration.

    We can debate the issue of process however, the board has gone above and beyond their requirement regarding public engagement, and the director has been extremely candid and open. Fourteen volunteer parents spent countless hours in their effort to provide option’s that reflect public opinion and would assist the board in it’s decision.
    Are these efforts to be simply disregarded and replace by the same process at a later date ?

    Below is a statement from your letter, could you explain how you concluded downtown to be the city’s most important neighborhood ?

    “In doing so, it should not damage forever the most important neighbourhood in our City, our downtown core neighbourhood”

    • Gary Scobie

      Actually John, I would like to see this PAR process changed so that it is not a school against school process. But that may be too much to ask at this point. I’ll leave that to the Ministry experts.

      As to being Burlington’s most important neighbourhood; you know the one with Spencer Smith Park, Beachway Park, The Pier, the Performing Arts Centre, the Art Gallery, the Seniors Centre, City Hall, Central Park and the Bandshell, the highest concentration of restaurants, the Burlington Central Library, the highest concentration of historic buildings, Joseph Brant Museum, Joseph Brant Hospital and probably the most diverse mix of detached houses in the city. I guess it’s just my own humble opinion.

      • John


        I am surprised and a little disappointed that with all the feature you listed as important, both the students and Central High School weren’t mentioned.

        • Mike Ettlewood


          This response disappoints and surprises me. We have been on different sides of this issue but I have respected that you have never, until now, stooped to cheap and silly shots.

          • Will

            I this shows that people are tired of hearing everything about downtown Burlington being only about one school. My kids and grandkids spend time downtown but they never went to Central. Gary is right about what is so wonderful about downtown Burlington but I agree with John that with all the jabbering about the school thing and not saying nothing about it makes me wonder.Not living downtown I dont no whether my family is welcome to enjoy downtown.

        • Josie

          John, Gary’s letter clearly spells out how and why is Burlington Central High School important for our city.

          In March of 2015 our Ministry of Education has decided that school boards no longer need to address the impact school closures have on the community or local economy. And this is where this whole process fails us all, not just our kids but also our city and it’s future generations.

          Once we let our school board close down the only school we have in our downtown, we will never ever be able to get that back!!! As Gary says, let’s step back and look at the big picture!!! Thank you Gary for your support of Central High and everything you do for our city!

  • resident

    Great letter. I find the fact that 92% of the Central students walk to school a very strong argument for keeping Central open. This is very important as it reduces pollution as well as reducing obesity. Neither of these figures in the PAR scoring.

  • Bridget

    Could not agree more. Well said!

  • Steve Warner

    Excellent letter.

  • 100% Agree.

    The executive summary:

    The PAR process was invented before places to grow to close schools. Now with places to grow in place the process is outdated and not going to make a good decision.