A Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School mother says the Somali community has felt left out in the cold in the decision to close the downtown high school.

Shamso Elmi says she worries that removing the high school from downtown will have a negative impact on the some 200 Somali-Canadian students currently attending the multicultural school.

Sir John A. has a prayer room for Muslim students, and the Somali students feel accepted and comfortable at the school, Elmi said. As a result, they succeed.

In 2015, the school will close, as will Delta and Parkview schools in the lower city. The students from all three will move to a new north-end high school in the Pan Am precinct. She worries the new school won't be as welcoming.

"Really, a lot of parents feel like nobody's listening to them," said Elmi. "But they've already gone with that decision."

Elmi was one of several delegations to appear before the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board standing committee on Monday. Initial versions of the board's secondary program review showed English as a Second Language (ESL) programs being hosted at Westdale rather than the new north school, which Elmi said will be one more deterrent for students.

Trustees approved an updated plan Monday that includes an ESL program at the north-end school.

Consultation into Sir John A. Macdonald's closure relied on home computers and English literacy, which not all Somali parents have, Elmi said. When it closes, she told trustees, "there will be no high school left in downtown. The only other big building that will be left is the jail."

The teachers at Sir John A. work hard to understand the Somali community and help its children succeed, Elmi said.

The school is like "the United Nations," she said. "You will see different faces, different cultures, different ethnic people. You feel like you're not lonely."

She hopes that continues at the new school, she said.

"We want our children to go to school to learn and become good Canadians. We do not want them to feel hopeless and end up in a graveyard or in jail."

The board included ESL at the new north-end school because of community feedback, said chair Tim Simmons. Now it will be offered at Westdale and in the Pan Am precinct.

The board voted last year after an extensive accommodation review process to reduce the number of public high schools in Hamilton from 18 to 13. Monday's plan, which will be ratified at a future board meeting, includes a reallocation of some specialty "tier three" programs at high schools around Hamilton.

Program allocation is as follows:

  • Arts & Culture (digital media): Dundas, new north school, Orchard Park
  • ArtSmart: Sir Allan MacNab
  • Aviation/aerospace: Ancaster, Sir Winston Churchill
  • Cosmetology: Sir Winston Churchill, new south school, Orchard Park, Waterdown
  • ESL: New south school, Glendale, Westdale, new north school
  • French immersion: Sherwood, Westdale
  • Horticulture: Saltfleet
  • Hospitality/tourism: New north, Orchard Park, Sir Allan MacNab, Waterdown
  • Information/communication tech: Ancaster, new south
  • International Baccalaureate: Ancaster, Glendale, Westdale
  • Manufacturing: Dundas, Sherwood, Sir Winston Churchill
  • Ontario Public Service Program: New north
  • Performing Arts: Glendale
  • Strings: Glendale
  • Transportation technology: Dundas, Glendale, new south

The committee voted Monday to strike three more accommodation reviews in September.

The impacted schools are as follows:

  • East Hamilton: Hillcrest, Parkdale, Rosedale, Roxborough Park, Viscount Montgomery, W. H. Ballard, Woodward
  • West Flamborough: Beverly Central, Dr. John Seaton, Greensville, Spencer Valley
  • Central Mountain: Cardinal Heights, Eastmount Park, Franklin Road, G. L. Armstrong, Linden Park, Pauline Johnson, Queensdale, Ridgemount
  • West Glanbrook: Bell-Stone, Mount Hope