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System Alternative Education

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Last updated on Thursday, October 26, 2017.

The goal of System Alternative Education Programs is to raise the feeling of self-worth of each student by helping each of them realize that they are worthy, capable and valued. With this goal in mind, staff works with students so that they:

  • Develop a focused and positive sense of direction
  • Establish a plan that will see them engage in their education in a way that will eventually lead to the successful completion of secondary school.
  • Build on their learning experiences and become contributing members of our community.

System Alternative Education Programs have been developed to help students who need an alternative (location, structure, time, function, organization, program delivery) to the traditional classroom environment.

Disengaged, underachieving students have typically been referred for enrolment in system alternative education programs. These students have demonstrated resistance to interventions attempted in their home schools. They are thought to benefit from features afforded in alternative programs (e.g. reduced class sizes, flexible daily schedules).

Admission is by:

  • Home school referral

Because each existing program is different to meet the specific needs of students, it makes it difficult to generate entrance criteria that would fit all programs.  For that reason, the following list contains the recommended minimum student entrance criteria school staff will consider when nominating a student for enrolment.

Students must:

  • Be capable of working independently, with support
  • Have reading skills at or above Low Average limits
  • Be Tier 3 students, from HWDSB Secondary Schools
  • Have parental consent for participation in the programs
  • Consent to participate in the programs


The programs are offered at different locations throughout the city, including:

  • Centre 3
  • Dundas Valley Secondary School
  • Glendale Secondary School
  • Hamilton Regional Indian Centre
  • James Street
  • John Howard Society
  • King William
  • Mohawk College
  • Nora Frances Henderson Secondary School
  • Vincent Massey

James Street Program

The James St. Program serves students whose performance in the past indicates that they are able to achieve academic success, but whose recent results are poor due to a lack of engagement.

Students in Grades 9 to 12 can take Applied and Academic credits in the following courses:

  • Math
  • Science
  • English
  • Classical Studies

Students are enrolled on a full-time basis; however, when part of a transition plan to a regular school setting, they may attend other community schools or programs half-time as part of their curriculum. Students work on two subjects at a time and begin another two subjects when they have completed the first pair (regularly at the mid-semester and end of semester points).  The option of Coop is also available.

Off-Site Program

The Off-Site Program is located at:

  • Vincent Massey
  • King William

These locations provide a place for students who would benefit from an alternative learning model located outside a high school.  Students can access core compulsory credits, some optional course programs, and coop opportunities.

On-Site Program

HWDSB has three on-site programs located at the following secondary schools:

  • Nora Frances Henderson
  • Dundas Valley
  • Glendale

The On-Site Program is designed to provide a place for students who would benefit from an alternative learning model within a school. This model allows students to participate in classes and extra-curricular activities at the school, to the extent that they are willing and able. The program also acts as a transition program for those students who are in the off-site programs and integrates them back into high school.

Turning Point (Mohawk College)

Turning point is located at Mohawk College and is available to students who:

  • are between age 18 and 21
  • have earned 20 or more credits in secondary school.

Students within the program can:

  • access co-op opportunities,
  • complete high school
  • take dual credits through Mohawk College (if eligible).

Admission to the program is by self-referral.

Anita Mohar – Program Lead – 905.512.2573

Nu Steel (Centre 3)

NuSteel is located in the heart of Hamilton’s arts community on James St. North and is available to students with an interest in pursuing possible careers in the arts.

The referral process for this program is through Central Intake, and we also welcome referrals for students in the care of CAS, via their case workers.

Students partaking in the NuSteel program have an opportunity to engage in cross-curricular projects that culminate in hand-printed products, including posters, t-shirts, bags, and postcards. The program covers a variety of subjects, including English, Visual Art, History, Careers and Civics.

At Centre3, students have the opportunity to participate in Hamilton’s monthly Art Crawls, and experience the life of an artist-entrepreneur.  Students also have the opportunity to work in a community of artists, to observe artists in their craft, and to learn valuable new skills in this rich environment.

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Foundations Program

The Foundations Program serves students who are at risk and due to their behaviour, have exhausted all other interventions. The program is also designed for students exiting Section classes and/or Corrections/Custody situations.

The current partnership with the John Howard Society has the following model:

  • students are picked-up from home and attend their morning classes at the JHS site where they work toward credits in Food & Nutrition and Learning Strategies through programs with Board and JHS staff
  • students are transported to their afternoon classes, which may include Health & Physical Education and core compulsory credits with HWDSB staff connected to our King William site, or when ready, classes at a secondary school site

The goal of this program is to help students grow socially and emotionally, while developing the necessary skills to meet their educational goals within one of:

  • A traditional school setting
  • Alternative Education
  • Identified future pathway.

Supervised Alternative Learning (SAL)

Supervised Alternative Learning is part of a range of interventions. The program is designed for secondary students of mandatory school age (14 to 17 years old). If approved, students are excused from attending a traditional school and schedule while they continue to participate in learning under the supervision of the board or a school of the board. This allows students to maintain a connection to learning and supports their continued progress towards graduation or achievement of other educational and personal goals.

SAL Outreach Program

Students participate in any combination of the following:

  • Enrolment in a course
  • Enrolment in non-credit life skills
  • Preparation for employment
  • Counseling
  • Volunteering and any other activity with the potential to help the student achieve their learning goals

Once completed, students leave the Outreach Program to:

  • Return to their home school
  • Continue with other System Alternative Education programs
  • SAL Transition Program
  • Enter the workforce

SAL Transition Program

Located at Vincent Massey, this program is available to those students who continue to require the flexibility that a SAL plan offers and would benefit from the opportunity to begin to transition into a class/school environment. Participation within the program promotes:

  • Personal growth
  • Independence
  • Self-esteem
  • Literacy
  • Numeracy
  • Achievement of academic credits

Once completed, students leave the Transition Program to:

  • Return to their home school
  • Continue with other System Alternative Education programs
  • Enter the workforce

Strengthening Hamilton's Aboriginal Education (SHAE)

Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board has partnered with the Hamilton Regional Indian Centre to create an alternative education program for Aboriginal students who are not currently attending a secondary school in Hamilton or are not experiencing success at school, and are seeking an alternative setting in a culturally appropriate learning environment to continue their educational career. This program is administered by System Programs and has the goal to reduce the  early leaver and dropout rates of Aboriginal students within the school system.

The Alternative Education Program at the Hamilton Regional Indian Centre features:

  • A drop-in, self-paced, structure
  • Continuous enrolment
  • Credit attainment by completing Independent Learning Centre,  locally developed courses and other program models to meet student learning needs
  • Small group and individual instruction and support
  • Opportunity to transition into regular classes
  • Nutritional program
  • A culturally appropriate learning environment
  • Youth Drum Group

For more information, please contact Kleri Venizelos or Stephanie Skye at the Hamilton Regional Indian Centre (905)548-9593, extension 234.