Hess Street School should remain open
Community exemplifies best practices on how we should deal with diversity
Proposed school closures for any community are full of heightened emotions and one is compelled to do whatever to keep their local school open. Of course it is unrealistic and impossible to keep every school open.
Yet I would be remiss if I did not speak up for why I believe Hess Street Elementary School should remain a valuable part of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board community and Hamilton at large.
I must disclose that I have taught at the school for many years, but have been retired for more than three years. I am also the daughter of immigrant parents, so the diversity and uniqueness of the school touches me deeply. No decisions have been made yet. I want to be clear, the school exemplifies best practices on how we should deal with diversity. It is a place of acceptance, respect, empathy. It is a role model for communities learning how to deal or work together with new immigrants and refugees from any country. Educators worldwide have visited to learn best practices on how to teach and work with children and their families.
It is much more than providing translators. One must deal with cultural sensitivities, families who have with witnessed unimaginable tragedy and loss. Only then can the actual process of teaching begin.
The school has an amazing team of ESL teachers, teaching teams of teachers, educational assistants, early childhood educators and learning resource teachers, as well as administrative staff secretaries and volunteers. Everyone works together seamlessly and tirelessly to make the school a welcoming and positive place to learn and work in. Thank you, too, to the hard-working parent council. You are an inspiration.
Hess should not be considered for closure because of the huge amount of money that would be required for renovations and repairs. Is it their fault minimal funds have been allocated over the years? All around them new schools were built, while Hess was “lucky” to get walls put in between classrooms and the hallways in this open-concept school, to keep the noise level down.
Some may argue busing students to newer schools will allow Hess students to benefit from using newer, modern schools. I would have to respectfully disagree. At present, many/ most students are within walking distance. This allows parents/guardians to see teachers and staff at drop-off and at dismissal times. This creates an atmosphere of inclusion and keeps the doors of communication open.
Many parents in this community do not have a car and public transportation to these proposed intake schools is not direct. This would result in parents not communicating with the school unless there were issues. Parents need to be involved in all of the activities the school has to offer. They need to feel welcome and be an important part of the school community.
Hess school is located in the downtown core, which means classes can walk to the library, the market, the art gallery etc. without the additional cost of transportation. These additional costs would make many of these trips unaffordable for many families in this community. Also, children are able to attend before- and afterschool extracurricular activities since they are able to walk to and from their school. Most children in this community are unable to afford to attend the afterschool programs that many other children are fortunate enough to participate in. On top of this, the financial cost of busing is prohibitive.
Instead, Invest in Hess. You will not be disappointed.
Do yourself a favour. Visit or volunteer at Hess. You will leave feeling amazed at how well diversity can work. And even better, you will be hopeful for our future.
As our world changes, we open our arms and hearts to those who flee war-torn countries or choose to make a better life for themselves in Canada.
I hope that in our small corner of this world, Hess Street school will be a part of a warm welcome for families and children for years to come.
Students at Hess Street School fill up food donation boxes. The school is a model of diversity and should not be closed, argues Kathryn Tuite.