Hamilton

Hamilton students encouraged to attend local schools, board says

Most high school students in Hamilton's public school board will no longer be able to attend schools outside of their geographic boundaries under a new program strategy that received preliminary approval Monday night.

Strategy part of a widespread program review of local high schools

Most high school students in Hamilton's public school board will no longer be able to attend schools outside of their geographic boundaries under a new program strategy that received preliminary approval Monday night.

Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board trustees voted for a new plan for city high schools that will encourage students to stay in their home schools.

When the board closes five high schools, the remaining 13 will be full and have a broad slate of programs. Those wanting to attend a school out of area will likely be denied, director John Malloy said after Monday's standing committee meeting.

"Where there are programs with a critical mass of students, our students in Hamilton continue to tell us that they want to stay closer to home," Malloy said.

When the board consulted with students, they heard that students wanted to go to the school nearest them, said chair Tim Simmons.

"And they wanted good programming, and they wanted caring adults and caring teachers to be in those schools," he said. "We expect that's what we're going to be offering them with this program strategy."

Previously, the board had plenty of empty seats in most of its high schools, so students who wanted to attend schools in other areas could do so. Now the schools will be full, Malloy said, so there will be no need for students to attend schools out of area.

Board staff will work out details of the new strategy, such as whether there will be a grandfather clause for students already attending schools outside of their boundary. Staff will also determine an implementation date.

Keeping students in their home schools benefits students, Malloy told trustees. Some evidence shows that "have and have-not schools" are created when board policies allow students "to go to schools they decide are better than other schools," he said.

Students who want specialized programs — French Immersion, manufacturing, international baccalaureate and other "tier three" programs — will attend the school within their tier three boundary.

Under the new boundaries, French Immersion students from Ancaster, for example, will attend Sherwood rather than Westdale.

Several Ancaster French Immersion parents voiced their opposition to that at the committee on Monday. Morgan Wyatt from the Fessenden Home and School Association presented a petition with 69 names from the Ancaster French Immersion community opposing attending the new program at Sherwood.

Ancaster trustee Alex Johnstone moved allowing the community French Immersion students to attend Westdale, which many of them do now. Trustees voted down that motion.

The program review included months of public consultation, including 13 meetings across the city.

The new plan includes the location of about 20 "tier three" programs within the board, including horticulture and English as a Second Language.

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