By Richard Leitner • METROLAND WEST MEDIA GROUP
High schools targeted for closure generally experienced the biggest declines as the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board saw yet another drop in secondary enrolment this fall.
Enrolment figures show there were 16,842 students at the board’s 18 high schools as of the end of October, nearly 400 fewer than the year before.
The drop was about 10 per cent bigger than expected and continues a steady decline that has seen secondary enrolment fall by more than 1,300 students in the past five years, the equivalent of a large high school.
Only Westmount, Ancaster, Saltfleet, Glendale and Sir John A. Macdonald bucked the trend.
Elementary enrolment also fell by 190 students, to 30,882, but this was fewer than the 300 projected in a board budget submitted to the Ministry of Education, which allocates funding on a per-student basis.
Overall elementary enrolment since 2008 has dropped by 1,012 students.
The latest figures come amid a plan to close seven high schools and build new ones on the south Mountain, in the lower city and potentially at Highland in Dundas.
“I think it shows we made the right decisions,” Board chair Tim Simmons said. “You’ve got to give credit to staff for giving us their best information and best advice through the (accommodation review) period.”
On the Mountain, Barton and Hill Park, set to close pending funding for a new school south of the Lincoln Alexander Parkway, lost 77 and 46 students, respectively, and have seen their enrolment drop by about 25 per cent since 2008.
Barton now has 698 students and Hill Park 738.
Enrolment at Mountain vocational school, also on the closure list, held steady at 174 students. But that’s still nearly 100 fewer students than five years ago.
Of those remaining open, MacNab’s enrolment dropped slightly to 874, while Sherwood’s fell by 104 – to 1,093, about six per cent below that in 2008.
Westmount, which offers self-paced learning to students across the system, saw enrolment jump by 60 to 1,490 – the second highest in the board – mirroring a trend that has seen an increase of 167 students over the past five years.
Saltfleet also added 27 students despite already being overcapacity. Designed for 976 students, the upper Stoney Creek school’s enrolment is now 1,215.
In the city’s west end, Parkside saw the biggest enrolment drop at 77 students. Targeted for closure, the Dundas school’s 446 students are the fewest of any non-vocational high school and 30 per cent fewer than five years ago.
Enrolment at Highland, Westdale and Waterdown remained relatively stable, while Ancaster’s enrolment rose by 47 students to 1,058, up nearly five per cent.
In the lower city, Glendale added 23 students and Sir John A Macdonald one. The latter’s student population of 1,168 is just 14 fewer than five years ago.
Macdonald is targeted for closure, as are Delta and Parkview, which suffered the biggest percentage drops in enrolment this fall and since 2008. Delta’s 704 students are 239 fewer than five years ago.
The closure plan is predicated on getting funding for a new school in a central location that would serve students from all three schools.
Simmons said the board is still awaiting word from the province on that front.
“We’re not hearing a lot right now from the ministry, so maybe it’ll come as a New Year’s present for us,” he said.
Orchard Park’s enrolment dropped by 42 to 1,103, while Sir Winston Churchill’s declined by 59 to 1,082. Enrolment at both is down about 10 per cent from five years ago.