Upset at proposed school closings in area
Parents pack meeting on future of Queen’s Rangers, Strathcona
A school isn’t just about the building it’s housed in — it’s about the teachers, parents and children who make up its community.
That was the message parent Amy Szoke delivered to a crowded room of more than 100 parents, Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board staff and trustees about the proposed closure of Queen’s Rangers Elementary School in Copetown Monday night.
Szoke — one of almost 40 people who sounded off at the packed board meeting — spoke about showing up at the rural Governors Road facility with her son, who is now five, while scouting out where he could attend kindergarten. They were invited in, shown around the classroom and made to feel at ease because of the school’s welcoming nature, she said.
“You should be so proud this school is part of your community,” Szoke said through tears, followed by a round of applause. “Instead of trying to take kids out of it, you should be trying to put kids in it.”
Queen’s Rangers is one of the schools recommended for closure as part of the Ancaster and west Hamilton pupil accommodation review processes currently being undertaken by the board.
Monday’s meeting was the next step in the review process, which will come to a head on June 5, the date by when trustees have to decide on a final proposal to present to the Ministry of Education. As part of these reviews, Fessenden Elementary School in Ancaster is suggested for shuttering, and it’s recommended that Hess Street School — one of the city’s most diverse elementary schools — merge with another lower-city school, Strathcona Elementary School.
If the current plans go ahead, a new kindergarten-to-Grade 8 school would be built at the Hess site, located at Hess Street North and Cannon Street West, the interim report says.
If this idea doesn’t receive provincial funding by spring 2019, the backup recommendation includes closing Hess in June 2019, and sending 95 per cent of the school’s students to Dr. Edgar Davey Elementary School and five per cent to Strathcona.
Parent Kerri Wilkinson, who has two children at Strathcona, said she was “gobsmacked” to learn her kids’ school is now “under fire.” “It seems like it’s an afterthought,” she told the meeting.
Wilkinson said she worries this move could pit the schools’ “two culturally diverse communities” against each other.
Since the initial options were put forward, staff has changed their stance on Hess, which was initially recommended for closure, but maintained their position on shuttering Queen’s Rangers and Fessenden in Ancaster, despite public outcry. In Ancaster, staff also recommends C.H. Bray Elementary School be rebuilt on its current site, a plan parents said needs to be sped up because of the condition of the building.
“There are no decisions that have been made,” board chair Todd White stressed to parents.