Community, identity and West Niagara Secondary

·3 min read

The development of West Niagara Secondary School is an ongoing conversation among west Niagara residents, and it raises questions about community and identity.

As a result of the new school opening, South Lincoln Secondary has already shut down operations as a high school and is now operating as an elementary school. With Beamsville District Secondary and Grimsby Secondary also set to shut down, the west Niagara community has expressed different reactions.

Nicole Scime has lived in West Lincoln for 34 years and she says that while she appreciates what the District School Board of Niagara is doing for Grimsby, Beamsville and Lincoln, “do I think that West Lincoln should’ve been thrown into the mix? Absolutely not.”

She says that West Lincoln is a farming community and different than Grimsby or Lincoln given its population density. Although the site for the new school is supposed to be in the middle of the communities it serves, “it is not,” Scime said. “The bus routes for Grimsby and Lincoln will be very different from the bus routes for West Lincoln. Our kids are going to have to travel up and down the escarpment.”

She said that having a local high school in a place like West Lincoln isn't about identity, but rather about keeping local kids in the community. “Our kids won't be able to work in our community. They won't play sports in our community. They just won't have that aspect in their lives,” Scime said.

Scime herself is a graduate of South Lincoln Secondary and although her own children won't be attending secondary school for some time, she said she fears a “culture shock” for her kids when they go from a rural elementary school of 150 students to a super school of over 2,000.

After reading complaints from other parents on social media, Scime said she learned that some former South Lincoln students who have been transferred to other schools have had to miss out on extracurriculars due to improper bussing. She said this is an issue she isn't looking forward to facing.

Katie Appleyard is a Beamsville resident and mother of two; one of her daughters is a graduate of Grimsby Secondary School (GSS) and the other will graduate with the last class of GSS.

Appleyard herself, a graduate of Beamsville District, said her grandfather was a teacher at GSS and both her parents went to school there as well. She said, “I really believe that this generation, a generation that's never not known modern technology, deserves a state-of-the-art school, not something that's outdated and needs constant upgrades.”

She said that although she doesn’t like the idea of identities being stripped away, she believes that a new school will give students a new identity through new experiences and diversity that they otherwise would not have found in their local communities.

Appleyard said she looks forward to the towns coming together to build something special. She said she remembers being a student at Beamsville Secondary and “my world feeling very small. And I think that this will prepare kids for their future by opening up who they meet, the curriculum that they can take, the extracurricular activities that they can do, and I think that that's what excites me the most for next generations.”

Moosa Imran, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News