Boundaries and the courses offered at Hamilton's public high schools could change over the next two years, and the board is getting input from parents about it.

The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board is in the midst of a secondary program review, a process that will culminate with a report to trustees in June.

The review looks not only at the boundaries that determine where students go to school, but what specialized programs such as French immersion and cosmetology will be offered there.

The board held the first of 13 meetings on Tuesday, one at each of the schools left after a sweeping accommodation review resulting in five fewer high schools in Hamilton.

"This has never been done on this scale, certainly within our board," spokesperson Jackie Penman said at Highland Secondary in Dundas on Tuesday night.

"We've sent letters home to each school community to ensure they understand" what's happening, she said.

Currently, the board offers about 20 "tier three" programs, which are specialized programs offered at select schools.

Ancaster High School and Sir Winston Churchill, for example, have aviation/aerospace programs, while students wanting French immersion have to go to Sherwood or Westdale.

The review looks not only at those programs, but at tier two programs such as Latin and robotics. Tier one programs are basic subjects that are offered at every school.

Boundary adjustments may also be required now that seven high schools will close and two new ones open in 2015.

Sir John A. Macdonald, Delta and Parkview are scheduled to close in favour of a new high school in the Pan Am precinct. Barton, Hill Park and Mountain will close in favour of a new school southeast of Lincoln Alexander Parkway. Parkside in Dundas will also close and its students will go to Highland.

The accommodation review process means each remaining school will have 1,000 students or more. More students means more course options, superintendent John Laverty told Dundas parents.

"We're balancing secondary school enrolment to make sure students can choose from a wide variety of programs," he said. "A school of 1,200 can offer more programs than a school of 600."

Dundas parents Gwyn Xagoraris and Teresa Noack attended the meeting at Highland to make sure the school would keep its music program.

Both have children involved in the program, which includes trips to music hotspots such as Memphis and New Orleans.

"The teachers are really engaged and they love what they do, so they're willing to go on trips with the kids," Xagoraris said. "And the band is terrific."

Members of Dundas Works handed out pamphlets at the meeting. The group is comprised of some of the same members as the former Parkside Works group, which fought to keep Parkside open. The board plans to close the school and do $15 million in renovations to Highland.

The Dundas Works group wants to keep both campuses open as part of one Dundas high school, said member Bob James.

"You've got strengths in each building and in each ground as well," he said. "You can use those strengths to feed on each other."

The overall goal is to make sure a high school remains in Dundas, James said.

"We want to make sure we get enough good programming in the Dundas area to keep the school alive and vibrant so we have a future."

Tier 3 programs across the board:

  • Ancaster: aviation/aerospace, information/communication tech, international baccalaureate (IB)
  • Dundas: arts and culture: digital media, manufacturing, transportation technology
  • Glendale: English as a second language (ESL), IB, performing arts, transportation technology
  • New north-end school: arts and culture: digital media, hospitality/tourism (food services), Ontario public service program
  • New south school: ArtSmart, cosmetology, ESL, information/communication tech, transportation technology
  • Orchard Park: arts and culture: digital media, cosmetology, hospitality/tourism
  • Saltfleet: horticulture
  • Sherwood: French immersion, manufacturing
  • Sir Allan MacNab: hospitality/tourism
  • Sir Winston Churchill: aviation/aerospace, cosmetology, manufacturing
  • Waterdown: cosmetology, hospitality/tourism
  • Westdale: ESL, French immersion, IB