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Richmond Hill neighbours fight back after change excludes them from Bayview Secondary School

Residents say York Region District School Board didn’t notify them of new holding areas changing their designated home school
Nov. 15, 2023
Melissa Wallace

Richmond Hill residents are demanding transparency and fairness after York Region District School Board (YRDSB) created new holding areas around Bayview Secondary School (BSS).

Resident Susan Li has lived in her neighbourhood for 10 years, in the quadrant located west of Bayview Avenue and between Major Mackenzie Drive East to Weldrick Drive East. With YRDSB’s change, children and youth in her quadrant would be sent to Alexander Mackenzie High School, approximately 3.6 km west of BSS.

Proposed School Holding Areas
Map updated October 2023 shows the proposed holding areas surrounding Bayview Secondary School in Richmond Hill. The blue star shows Susan Li’s neighbourhood.

Melissa Wallace screenshot
“The optics of choosing to place a holding area on a geographic area that is closest in vicinity to Bayview Secondary School is illogical and not seen in other YRDSB secondary school boundaries,” she wrote in a letter to YRDSB superintendent of education, Erik Khilji.

“YRDSB needs to prove to us, with data and logic, that this decision was not made lightly, and that it was done with good intentions and integrity, with a focus on the well-being of the children,” she said.

Li launched a petition for her neighbourhood and corralled a group of 24 volunteers who helped distribute flyers and raise awareness, asking them to get involved in advocacy efforts and email local school representatives.

One of the concerns for many residents is why some areas, notably more affluent and located further away from BSS, are untouched, while less well-off areas are seemingly targeted.

In a YRDSB letter dated Oct. 26 Khilji wrote: “Due to rapid population growth in certain York Region communities, it is sometimes necessary for students to attend (‘hold’) at an alternate school other than their designated home school... These holding areas will be in place for multiple years.”

Sushma Kavikondala and her family moved to the southwest quadrant of Bayview Avenue and Major Mackenzie Drive primarily due to its proximity to BSS.

“Bayview Secondary is geographically the closest secondary school to our long-established community (1.5 km from our house) and Alexander Mackenzie is more than 3 km away,” she said. “This would mean that my kids can no longer walk to the school and would need to either catch the bus or be dropped off.

“This places a considerable burden on us as a family, both financially and from a time perspective.”

As a member of council at both of her children’s schools, she explained how the move directly contradicts YRDSB’s promotion of fostering healthy habits by walking to school, building community well-being and cohesiveness.

“This change was initiated without any prior notice to our community, absolutely no communication, not the reasons behind this change and the length of time this holding would last,” she said. “This raises many concerns on the accountability of YRDSB and as a taxpayer paying toward the education and school within my community.

“It is absolutely disgraceful that this change was carried out with little regard to the lives being disrupted and no consultation with the community that is being affected.”

Emilio Guglielmi has lived in Richmond Hill for the past 40 years.

“Taking students away from the comfort of their immediate neighbourhood and sending them across town to attend classes is asinine and disruptive.”

"You’re solving a problem by creating another problem.”

Due to YRDSB’s network outage, Licinio Miguelo, YRDSB’s Senior Manager, Corporate Communications, texted in response to questions on Nov. 10 with the following statement:

“In October, we shared the introduction of a new regular track holding for Bayview Secondary School. After further analysis and discussion, we will be developing a new process to accommodate students in schools that are significantly over capacity. Students currently attending YRDSB schools within its catchment area will be able to attend Bayview SS. We will be sharing information about the new process after it is finalized, which we expect later in November. YRDSB families affected by the new process are being informed that they will be able to attend Bayview SS and there is no action required on their part.”

Miguelo said the new information would be shared with families once the network outage was resolved.

Li said the news was a step in the right direction, but raises further questions. For example, what it means for students in the catchment area but currently attending non-YRDSB schools, such as children with special needs or religious requirements, as well as the Board’s decision-making process in selecting certain quadrants. They also want to ensure this won’t happen again.