Is the Halton Catholic District School Board jumping the gun in proposing to close two schools in southeast Burlington and build a new one?

City councillor Jack Dennison said he is not as concerned with any extra traffic on the east end of New Street as he is with the board’s enrolment projections.

“School bus traffic occurs mostly at the opening and closing times,” he said. “It’s not there all day. But I can tell you that 80 per cent of the homes being sold in the area by older people are being bought by couples with young children.”

The board’s modified pupil accommodation review showed an 11 per cent drop in enrolment in southeast Burlington over the last five years and predicted an additional decline of 11 per cent in the next five years. By the year 2025 it is expected to reach 16 per cent.

The proposal is to close St. Raphael’s school on New St., near Walkers Line, and St. Patrick’s School, on Kenwood Ave. Ascension School, on New just east of Appleby Line, would then be torn down and replaced by a modern school with 648 pupil places, as well as a child care centre with room for 88 children. Students, who currently attend St. Raphael’s, St. Patrick’s and Ascension would attend the new school.

Jane Michael, chair of the board, has declined to comment on the proposal until the process is further along.

Susan Trites, trustee for Wards 4 and 5 where the changes are proposed, said these are small neighborhood schools and parents are right to be concerned that the fabric of the school communities will change.

Monsignor Ray Modeski, pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish, has his own opinion.

“There is a marked benefit to having a Catholic school immediately beside a Catholic church,” he said. “The children identify with the church and the priest who serves it. And they can walk to the church for celebration of the sacraments.”

Both St. Raphael’s and St. Patrick’s are located next to churches of the same names, but there is no church at the Ascension site.

The board claims the times required to bus children to the new school would not exceed 15 minutes. But some parents in the St. Patrick’s catchment area say they live more than 1.6 kilometres from the proposed site and their children do not qualify for busing. They’re very concerned about their children having to cross a busy four-lane street to get to the school.

The board also says that if it does nothing it would be forced to close schools and move students to an existing school. Given the small size of the current schools, it would not be able to accommodate entire school communities together and would likely need to look at boundary changes and splitting up communities.

Last December the Ministry of Education announced funding for school boards initiating consolidations and staff are recommending the board take advantage of it, since it might not be there forever.

At a recent meeting held at Assumption high school, parents from the two schools proposed for closure identified the central location of the proposed new school and increased property values in the area as positives. However, many are concerned about possible traffic congestion, because it would be located right beside an already busy Robert Bateman high school, and high-speed traffic on New St.

One parent suggested the board enquire about the availability of parkland behind St. Patrick’s and build the new school there.

St. Raphael’s school is 58 years old and St. Patrick’s is 46.

By going to change.org on the internet residents can sign a petition against the possible closing of the schools.

Ironically, when St. Patrick’s parish was formed in 1969 parishioners had to attend Mass in the gym of Ascension school until their church was built.

Final recommendations will go to a full meeting of the board on March 22. The board will entertain delegations at its April 5 meeting and it is hoped a final decision can be made by April 19.

The board also is considering a proposal to close St. Paul’s school, on Cumberland Ave., and have its students attend an expanded St. John’s school on Brant St.

Written by: Denis Gibbons

Providing a fresh perspective for Hamilton and Burlington

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