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Hamilton, Canada: Somali parents worry about downtown school closur

Shamso Elmi says Somali-Canadian parents felt left out of the decision to close Sir John A. Macdonald high school downtown. They were more worried by plans to offer English as a Second Language programs at Westdale and not the new north high school, which the school board committee changed on Monday. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

By Samantha Craggs,
Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School mother says the Somali community has felt left out in the cold in the decision to close the downtown high school.

Shamso Elmi says she worries that removing the high school from downtown will have a negative impact on the some 200 Somali-Canadian students currently attending the multicultural school.

Sir John A. has a prayer room for Muslim students, and the Somali students feel accepted and comfortable at the school, Elmi said. As a result, they succeed.

In 2015, the school will close, as will Delta and Parkview schools in the lower city. The students from all three will move to a new north-end high school in the Pan Am precinct. She worries the new school won't be as welcoming.

“Really, a lot of parents feel like nobody's listening to them,” said Elmi. “But they've already gone with that decision.”

Related: Hamilton students encouraged to attend local schools, board says

Elmi was one of several delegations to appear before the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board standing committee on Monday. Initial versions of the board's secondary program review showed English as a Second Language (ESL) programs being hosted at Westdale rather than the new north school, which Elmi said will be one more deterrent for students.

Trustees approved an updated plan Monday that includes an ESL program at the north-end school.

Consultation into Sir John A. Macdonald's closure relied on home computers and English literacy, which not all Somali parents have, Elmi said. When it closes, she told trustees, “there will be no high school left in downtown. The only other big building that will be left is the jail.”

The teachers at Sir John A. work hard to understand the Somali community and help its children succeed, Elmi said.

Related: Student enrolment up at Hamilton's Sir John A. but down overall

The school is like “the United Nations,” she said. “You will see different faces, different cultures, different ethnic people. You feel like you're not lonely.”

She hopes that continues at the new school, she said.

“We want our children to go to school to learn and become good Canadians. We do not want them to feel hopeless and end up in a graveyard or in jail.”

The board included ESL at the new north-end school because of community feedback, said chair Tim Simmons. Now it will be offered at Westdale and in the Pan Am precinct.

Related: Hamilton school board aims to expropriate Scott Park

The board voted last year after an extensive accommodation review process to reduce the number of public high schools in Hamilton from 18 to 13. Monday's plan, which will be ratified at a future board meeting, includes a reallocation of some specialty "tier three" programs at high schools around Hamilton.

Program allocation is as follows:

Arts & Culture (digital media): Dundas, new north school, Orchard Park
ArtSmart: Sir Allan MacNab
Aviation/aerospace: Ancaster, Sir Winston Churchill
Cosmetology: Sir Winston Churchill, new south school, Orchard Park, Waterdown
ESL: New south school, Glendale, Westdale, new north school
French immersion: Sherwood, Westdale
Horticulture: Saltfleet
Hospitality/tourism: New north, Orchard Park, Sir Allan MacNab, Waterdown
Information/communication tech: Ancaster, new south
International Baccalaureate: Ancaster, Glendale, Westdale
Manufacturing: Dundas, Sherwood, Sir Winston Churchill
Ontario Public Service Program: New north
Performing Arts: Glendale
Strings: Glendale
Transportation technology: Dundas, Glendale, new south
The committee voted Monday to strike three more accommodation reviews in September.

The impacted schools are as follows:

East Hamilton: Hillcrest, Parkdale, Rosedale, Roxborough Park, Viscount Montgomery, W. H. Ballard, Woodward
West Flamborough: Beverly Central, Dr. John Seaton, Greensville, Spencer Valley
Central Mountain: Cardinal Heights, Eastmount Park, Franklin Road, G. L. Armstrong, Linden Park, Pauline Johnson, Queensdale, Ridgemount
West Glanbrook: Bell-Stone, Mount Hope

Source: CBC


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