A pair of Burlington high schools are still slated to close following an administrative review by the province.
The Ministry of Education “received and accepted the results” of an examination into the Halton District School Board’s Program and Accommodation Review (PAR) process, which resulted in the closure of Lester B. Pearson and Robert Bateman high schools.
“Based on my review and consultations, I conclude that, while there were violations of the board PAR policy, they were such that they had no material effect on either the deliberations of the PARC or on the final decisions of the board,” wrote independent facilitator Margaret Wilson in a report released on Jan. 10.
In other words, the board followed its process for the PAR review of Burlington secondary schools, the report finds.
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“Our government will support the school board, working in collaboration with the community, to make sure that the proper transitions are in place to support students and their unique needs,” said Minister of Education Mitzie Hunter.
The board of trustees’ June 7, 2017 decision to close both schools – which house programs for students with special needs – resulted in petitions being circulated and rallies held across the city last year, including at the school board office on Guelph Line, in protest.
Students with special needs can attend schools closer to home, according to the board.
Wilson – the former registrar and CEO of the Ontario College of Teachers – said the board’s review process was “open to the community and equipped trustees with the diversity of perspectives and information needed.”
The Ministry of Education approved requests for an administrative review of the accommodation review process related to Bateman and Pearson schools last September.
“I understand the deep feelings of the petitioners and am grateful for their openness in our meetings. Their concerns for special needs students, in particular, are genuine,” said Wilson.
“While I recognize their concerns, I also believe that the board has made a responsible decision on behalf of Burlington secondary students. I hope that parents and the board will now work constructively to ensure a smooth transition, not only for special needs students but for all affected students in all programs.”
HDSB director of education Stuart Miller said the “we appreciate the comprehensive nature of this review,” and “we are pleased to see the recommendations in the report and we will review our Program and Accommodation Review Policy to ensure these recommendations are considered for the future.”
With the conclusion of the review, “we will continue our work toward building new school communities, and our focus on positive transitions for students, their families, staff and the community,” Miller said.
“We are committed to working with our school communities to ensure the smoothest possible transition.”
The ministry has no authority to overturn pupil accommodation decisions or delay their implementation, according to the province.
Pearson is projected to close in 2018, while Bateman is slated to shutter its doors in 2020.