Welcome to Hamilton - we're closing your school

Mike and Juno Rinaldi made headlines last year when they moved to Hamilton from Vancouver, lured by the city’s quality of life and low cost of living. Less than a year later, the move has lost some of its lustre as they fight the possible closing of their children's school.
Members of Rosedale school's junior choir performed during the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board's public delegation meeting Monday, where trustees heard arguments against closing the school. The board will vote next month whether to close four east Hamilton schools. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Mike and Juno Rinaldi made headlines last year when they moved to Hamilton from Vancouver, BC, lured by the city’s quality of life and low cost of living.

Now the city has lost some of its lustre as they face another Hamilton reality: the possibility their children’s school could close.

When the actors moved to Hamilton last July, they did a 10-minute segment on CBC Radio’s Fresh Air describing the decision. It’s close to Toronto so the pair can get there for work. But they can own a home here, rather than the two-bedroom apartment they had in Vancouver with their two sons.

Michael Rinaldi, top left, and his wife Juno celebrate Rinaldi's birthday with their two sons in 2013. (Courtesy of Michael Rinaldi)

But now their neighbourhood school, Rosedale, is among the four schools up for closure as part of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board’s east Hamilton accommodation review committee (ARC). And while they don’t regret their move, it’s taken away some of the glow.

“We just moved our kids across the country,” said Juno Rinaldi. “We pulled them out of school in Vancouver. We sought out the school we wanted them to be in. Now they’re going to close it.”

About 150 parents and community members attended the public delegation night for the east Hamilton ARC. The board will vote next month whether to close Parkdale, Roxborough Park and Woodward schools in June 2015, followed by Rosedale in June 2016.

Under the plan, the board will build a 550-student school on the site of the existing Viscount Montgomery school if it can get money from the province. If it can’t, it will add onto Viscount Montgomery and renovate Hillcrest and W. H. Ballard schools.

The board’s standing committee will vote on the plan on June 6, followed by a ratification vote on June 16.

The decision comes two years after the board voted to close nearby Delta Secondary in 2016.

Since moving to Hamilton, life has been good, said Mike Rinaldi. “I’m still so happy.” But the decision to close four schools seems rash.

Hope the process isn't 'totally futile'

His presentation Monday night drew big laughs from the audience, with graphs labeled “Facts, facts and more facts” and a picture of a barren forest to portray life after Rosedale.

“I learned to do Power Point,” he said afterward.

Rinaldi’s eldest son, seven-year-old Everett, was at a low reading level when he got to Rosedale, and is now flourishing, Juno Rinaldi said. They fear his progress will falter at a larger school.

“This is my introduction to this kind of process,” Mike Rinaldi said. “It would be nice to know it’s not totally futile.”

Earlier this year, the city of Hamilton urged the province to impose a moratorium on school closures. The board is bound by flawed provincial legislation, Coun. Sam Merulla of Ward 4 said.

Another meeting Tuesday

“I don’t envy the position the board of trustees are faced with,” he said. But by following the legislation, “you’re doing the province’s dirty work.”

“To take five schools out of the east end of Hamilton is to suck the life out of that community, and how you can do that with a great deal of any conscience is beyond comprehension from my perspective.”

The board’s accommodation reviews are driven by declining enrolment and growing infrastructure costs. If the old properties are sold in the east end and the province kicks in funding for a new $10-million building at the Viscount Montgomery site, the board estimates it will save around $27.7 million in capital and renewal costs over the next 10 years.

It is also studying school closures in west Flamborough and central Mountain.

The public delegation meeting for central Mountain is 6 p.m. Tuesday at Hamilton city hall council chambers.


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