Update: First and foremost, lest there be any misunderstanding. I DO NOT want Niagara District Secondary School (NDSS) to close. I believe there are ways it can stay open, ways the community is trying to implement, but running out of time to do so.
However, I don’t know how many times I have e-mailed Christina Blizzard at the Toronto Sun that the fact Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) students attend Eden High School in St. Catharines has nothing whatsoever to do with the low enrollment problem and closing of NDSS. Yet, today she is at it again writing an article titled “The Revenge of the Faith-based Schools.“
I usually have a lot of respect for Blizzard but she is totally wrong on this one and always has been because she obviously doesn’t know the long-term Eden history. Here is some of that history:
- Some twenty-three years ago, before Eden was incorporated into the public system, I taught there. At that time it was located in NOTL as well, almost directly across the road from NDSS on Highway 55 (now called Niagara Stone Road). Eden didn’t affect NDSS enrollment then and it doesn’t affect it now because the students who attended Eden have not, historically, ever been interested in attending NDSS.
- When the decision was made by the Ontario Mennonite Brethren Conference to join the public system around 1987, a meeting family members attended, an agreement was signed that included an Eden Advisory Board – a Board that is still very much in place.
Meaning, the decision did not happen since the 2007 Ontario election and has nothing to do with John Tory and the campaign issue that was so controversial regarding faith-based schools. So, for Blizzard to link the two issues together is not only wrong but dishonest.
Another not so well know fact. At the time Eden was looking for a public school home, the NDSS community was asked if Eden could use one of their empty wings. That request all but seems forgotten now but the parent groups said they didn’t want any part of it and rejected the request.
So, now what? Eden has had to move a couple of times and is now sharing space with Lakeport High School, which will also have to close soon due to declining enrollment. But, that closing has nothing to do with Eden either.
Over a year ago, Blizzard fell for the line that it was the free busing taking students from NOTL communities to the St. Catharines school that was causing the problem. So, the District Board of Niagara cancelled that busing. Did it make any difference? No it did not. My granddaughter, who attends Eden, car pools with a few of her friends – as do a lot of other students.
Eden has over 750 kids. It is very academically and athletically oriented. As such, there is a huge waiting list and the children of Mennonites are only a small percentage of total enrollment. Meaning, the 170 Eden students from NOTL are just a drop in the bucket.
Yet, what Blizzard and other NDSS supporters won’t recognize is that even if all 170 of them were told they couldn’t attend Eden any more, they would NOT, I repeat NOT necessarily attend NDSS.
Why? For a lot of reasons. Most would attend Catholic high schools in St. Catharines or Niagara Falls or private faith-based high schools in the vicinity, but few, if any, would go to NDSS.
There has long been animosity by those involved with NDSS against Eden, even when it was private. I taught visual art and had a great relationship with the NDSS art teacher, so we did many things together. But, that was not typical.
Look, I live a couple of miles from NDSS. I don’t want to see it close anymore than anyone else. I feel it is short-sighted and reduces options for the future. I would rather see the DSBN built a new appropriately sized high school.
But, please, people, stop blaming the NDSS closure on Eden. Yes, it is a publicly funded faith-based school, but it was allowed to be that a very long time ago, during the Peterson-Rae coalition days back in the mid 1980′s. You can’t rewrite history now just because John Tory campaigned on that topic in 2007.
Oh, and one more thing, Eden’s teachers are all members of OSSTF, the secondary teachers’ union. Meaning, that unions had or have nothing to fear about publicly funded alternative schools. And, during the school day those teachers simply teach the standard Ontario high school curriculum.
We are one month from the closing of NDSS and the same old arguments are being bandied about. You’re riding a hobby horse that’s not going anywhere. Yes, by all means, everyone should pressure the Education Minister to keep NDSS open but, for heavens sake, stop the whining about Eden.