Hess Street School should re­main open

Com­mu­nity ex­em­pli­fies best prac­tices on how we should deal with di­ver­sity

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - KATHRYN TUITE Kathryn Tuite is a Hamil­ton res­i­dent.

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.

CATHIE COW­ARD, THE HAMIL­TON SPECTATOR

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.

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