HWDSB: Shut Down More Schools – Our Kids Deserve Better

There are few things that scrape my patience more than the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board’s  vain attempts to revamp a broken school system. Monday’s Spec sports an article by one of our teachers blaming the problem on lack of funding due to Ontario’s 2-tier public school system. I couldn’t disagree more.

For the record, I do agree that there should be one and only one school system in Ontario. One public board. It should teach all religions of the world, as well as cultures, ethnicity, tolerance, difference, and respect. Having two Boards creates yet one more divide amongst our children at a time when we so desperately need them to learn to work together. And of course, the inequity of the whole situation is one of the most unacceptable disadvantages we can foist on our kids, in addition to the imbalance of support that already exists because of location, community status, EQAO scores, parental involvement, and the support of local businesses.

But let’s take a look at the Catholic Board – the Hamilton Wentworth Catholic District School Board.

The Catholic Board has consistently closed, crammed, and cried for years. They move kids over to a neighbouring school, overcrowding it and installing rows and rows of portable classrooms. They then demolish the old – old, yeah, more like old-ish – school and sell the land. Then with an overcrowded school or two, they cry to the province, who helps them fund a brand new, state-of-the-art campus for their kids. New computer labs, sport facilities that attract some of the best athletes in the area, amenities and accessibility, safe and eco-friendly designs. The kids end up in a brand new school, and the parents are thrilled. They keep the names of the old schools to retain continuity for their alumni – avoiding public input on any of this. I have never heard the type of public outcry from the Catholic Board parents that routinely erupts from the public school crowd. Fact is, the Catholic school supporters elect their trustees and them trust them to do their jobs. The results are nothing short of enviable. Today, their oldest school is about 40 – I believe that’s St. Catherine of Sienna on the West Mountain, and it’s not even used as a school anymore.

By contrast, I can’t even begin to describe the fiasco that makes up the public board – the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board. The bickering and whining, the accusations and distrust, the endless discussions and committees are enough to make me want to cry. As my two youngest will be attending high school in September, I am at the point now where I just can’t wait to get them out. Our Board consistently celebrates the 75th anniversary of cemetery plot buildings with antique windows and creaky old wood floors, asbestos-filled basements, and drinking fountains that spout brown water. They sink millions into buildings that are fifty years old, trying to retrofit them with new windows, computer wiring, and pretty exteriors. And still, no air conditioning.

But suggest closing one of these precious mausoleums, and the parents cry.

We moved here so we could be close to the school. Yet with catchments being as irregular as possible, most of the kids already arrive by bus or mom’s minivan.

We’ll lose our sense of community. Only if you allow that to happen – fact is, all your kid’s friends will go to the new school, too. If not now, by middle school or high school.

The school will be too big for my little guy. No, the school will have a properly separated kindergarten and playground. And accessible stairs and washrooms. And fresh circulated air. And filtered water bottle refill stations. And gym space and equipment. And wired Internet so they’re not being radiated by all the wireless wifi cancer rays. And enough lockers so they don’t have to share and catch each others’ head lice. And a cafeteria so they don’t have to eat at their desks and make the kids with allergies sick. And an auditorium with seats so they don’t have to sit on the floor for two hours to hear about how bad bullying is, cause bullying is what happens when people don’t spend time together learning about their differences.

And what about…??? Shut. Up. I can’t take it anymore. Someone, please, bite the bullet and build our kids some new schools. Trustees, grow a pair – just shut down the schools. And stop spending so much money on yourselves – you should be ashamed. Seriously. Or arrested. And parents, make the commitment now. If not for your kids, then for those who come after. If only the parents who came before you had done you the favour. Pay it forward. Stop worrying about keeping everything the same and start doing everything you can to prepare your kids for a world that you canNOT imagine. Their world will be nothing but change; the sooner they get good at that, the better off they’ll be.

Gawd! I have been keeping that in for so long. It’s hard to bite your tongue against your husband’s employer for two decades…

In the end, maybe the fix is simply one public school board. One system for all. Let’s all vote to close down the public board and send all the kids to the Catholic Board. That would be best for the kids…

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