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Programs and System Programs

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HWDSB delivers its secondary school programs using four key principles:

  • All secondary schools are great schools
  • Students will have choice within their home schools
  • Expanded access for students for specialized programs
  • All students achieving and graduating in HWDSB

We provide choice through a variety of courses, programs and pathways for students at their home school, as well as a number of Specialized (Tier 3) and Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) programs in each school. Plans and destinations may change as you develop as a person, but planning your path – your way – will help you be successful. The five pathways we refer to are: ApprenticeshipCollegeCommunityUniversity and Work. Learn more about secondary school education at HWDSB in our  7 to 10 Transition Guide and Secondary Course Calendar.

Programs at some schools

Based on student interest, schools offer specialized programs in a variety of areas. Please contact your school guidance counsellor to learn more about these options.

Programs at few schools

Some programs will be of interest to few students at a limited number of school sites. These programs require specialized facilities, equipment or funding. We offer interested students transportation to these programs if they live out of the school catchment. Specialized Tier 3 programs (including SHSMs) open to students beyond the school catchment based on their geographical location. Each specialized program will have a program boundary beyond the school boundary.

We have three categories of Specialized Tier 3 programs: Specialized Non-SHSM Programs, Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) Programs, and Intervention and Support Programs. Ask your guidance counsellor for more specific details and locations of these programs.

Art Smart

This program engages HWDSB students in the production of a full-scale musical, in partnership with Theatre Ancaster. Young actors in the program will be able to sing, dance, play and act while earning four credits towards their diploma, including two co-op credits. Students will be enrolled in specialized courses in drama, voice, instrumental, dance and musical theatre. Classes are enriched by partnerships with The Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts and local artists. Opportunities are also available for students interested in set and costume design, lighting and technical support. To be eligible, applicants will be 15 years of age or older; will have successfully completed at least eight credits; will submit all required application information by the due date; and will attend an interview session, if requested. Located at Sir Allan MacNab Secondary School. Students from other HWDSB schools will attend Sir Allan MacNab for their second semester.

Dear Students, Parents and Guardians,

We will be taking auditions for the ArtSMART program at Sir Allan MacNab Secondary School through video submissions due by Friday June 19th, 2020.

This year, students will be able to submit their auditions in video format to [email protected].

These videos may be done using a phone, ipad or other recording device. It is advised that each piece of the audition is filmed separately in order to upload them easily into the email.

How to Apply

Note: For the teacher reference, students may email or phone their specific teacher in order to obtain the information from them. Their response can be added to your submission or they may email in their own time.

Audition-based Program of the Arts


This program trains students in all aspects of the arts including Foundations of Theory and Technique, Individual and Collaborative Creation and Performance, and Critical Analysis. Students major in one of eight disciplines: Dance, Drama (Performance and Production); Music (Band, Contemporary, Strings, Vocal); or Visual and Media Arts. In addition to required credits, students have experiential learning opportunities such as career exploration, professional certification, discipline-specific training, opportunities beyond the classroom and seasonal collaborations on large-scale stage productions, small-scale studio productions and informal studio productions that invite broader school participation.  Graduating students receive a Certificate of Recognition in the Arts and Additional Qualifications such as industry training, professional resume and head shot, and professional portfolio.  Located at Glendale Secondary School.

Key Date:

  • Applications are due by Friday, December 20, 2019
  • Auditions/ Portfolio reviews will take place January 29 and 30, 2019 from 3-9 p.m.



Contact for more information:

HWDSB Audition-Based Program of the Arts
145 Rainbow Drive, Hamilton ON, L8K 4G1
905-560-7343 [email protected]

Construction – Building Careers from the Ground Up

The “Building Careers ” program is intended to provide career preparation for students with an interest in Residential Building Construction careers.  Students will have the opportunity to work with a Construction Technology teacher building homes with Habitat For Humanity.

Students will also complete Co-operative Education placements with building trades doing work at various building sites in the region. Placements could include electrical, plumbing, framing, bricklaying, general contracting etc.

This program is available in both semesters, and requires students to commit for the entire day, all semester.

Course Outline

Note: Pre-placement course work occurs at Hill Park Learning Centre.

How to Apply

Application Deadline:
June 1 for the following school year


Students gain hands-on experience in hairstyling techniques and aesthetics that meet industry standards, using industry standard materials and equipment.
Offered at Waterdown and (after opening of New North and New Nora Henderson secondary schools) at Sir Winston Churchill and new Nora Henderson.

English as a Second Language

HWDSB’s Secondary School ESL Program teaches children in grades 9 to 12 to communicate in English effectively. A strong command of the English language will help make your child successful in Canadian society. Secondary aged English Language Learners (ELLs) work to complete 30 credits needed for graduation and can substitute up to three ESL or ELD credits for compulsory English credits.

The goals of HWDSB’s ESL/ELD programs are to:

  • Assist the Newcomer with English language acquisition;
  • Provide orientation to Canadian society and culture;
  • Develop basic interpersonal communication skills in English;
  • Enable students to graduate from Secondary skills with the academic language and skills needed to be successful in Canadian post-secondary institutions and workplaces.

Learn more about our English as a Second Language program.

French Immersion

HWDSB offers French Immersion to help secondary school students achieve educational goals set forth by the Board and the Ontario Ministry of Education, while also developing French abilities to:

  • Communicate easily with French-speaking people
  • Understand and appreciate Canada’s Francophone and Anglophone heritage
  • Continue their educational development in French or English
  • Accept employment that requires French or English or a combination of the two languages

HWDSB awards a Certificate of French Immersion attached to the student transcript to show a student’s involvement in French Immersion at the secondary level. Students earn the certificate by successfully completing four secondary courses in French Immersion and at least six courses in other subjects taught in French. Located at Sherwood and Westdale secondary schools.

Learn more about French Immersion.

Healthcare Support Services Program

The Healthcare Support Services Program is intended to provide career preparation for students with an interest in pursuing a healthcare career. The program design enables students to gain the necessary knowledge, skills and behaviours they will need to participate in related cooperative education experiences in a Hamilton Health Sciences hospital under the guidance and supervision of a Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board teacher and Hamilton Health Sciences staff.

To be eligible for this unique Grade 12 program, students must:

  1. have successfully completed a minimum of 20 credits (less than 20, consideration will be given on a per case basis)
  2. submit all required application information by the due date
  3. attend an interview session, if requested

Download and complete the following Healthcare Support Services Program Application.

International Baccalaureate

This is a Grade 11/12 university preparation program recognized in over 140 countries, including universities in Ontario and Canada. Students concurrently study up to six challenging subjects that instill a global perspective with cross-cultural understanding. IB students learn through inquiry, and gain a sense of social responsibility, independence and critical-thinking skills vital to university studies. IB students can apply for university credit, based on their results in IB examinations. IB graduates gain both the Ontario Secondary School Diploma and an IB Diploma. Located at Ancaster High School and Westdale Secondary School. Learn more by visiting IBO.org

You can find the catchment areas for HWDSB IB schools online. If you have questions, please contact your home IB school’s co-ordinator:

Ontario Public Service (OPS) Program

This program is funded by OPS and the Ministry of Government Services. Students are given the opportunity to earn secondary school credits while completing a specialized co-op placement in the Ontario Public Service and its related agencies. These paid work experiences are available in areas including: Administrative and Support Services; Arts, Culture and Heritage; Communications and Marketing; Human Resources; and Travel and Tourism. Any HWDSB student may apply for the 15-20 positions available each semester. Only four Ontario school boards offer the program. Located at Hill Park Learning Centre. Please review the Ontario Public Service overview for more information.

How to Apply

  • Download and complete the attached Ontario Public Service Application.
  • Have a teacher complete the teacher section of the form
  • Submit the completed application along with a current résumé  and cover letter to a Co-op Teacher or your Guidance Counselor at your school by the required deadline.

Application Deadlines:
Semester 1 – May 15
Semester 2 – December 2


Students in the Strings program study the performance, creation and analysis of classical music into the 21st century. With beginner and advanced courses, the program builds on strings instruction at HWDSB elementary schools or in the community. It is offered in partnership with the Instrumental Music Program, which includes offerings in vocal, instrumental, guitar, keyboard and the performing arts. This can lead to a Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) designation in Arts and Culture. As a Tier 3 HWDSB program, students from any HWDSB secondary school can attend. Located at Glendale Secondary School.

Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) is a ministry-approved specialized program that allows students to focus their learning on a specific economic sector while meeting the requirements to graduate from secondary school. Through specialized programming, students are given the opportunity to ‘reach ahead’ and experience relevant training and learning specific to the sector. It also assists in their transition after graduation to apprenticeship training, college, university or the workplace. An SHSM is a four-semester, two-year program for any interested student in grades 11 or 12. Learn more on the Ministry of Education SHSM Website.

Specialized High Skills Major Location
Arts & Culture Dundas Valley
Orchard Park
Sir Allan MacNab
Aviation & Aerospace Ancaster
Sir Winston Churchill
Business Dundas Valley
Orchard Park
Construction Nora Henderson
Energy Orchard Park
Environment Waterdown
Health & Wellness Bernie Custis
Orchard Park
Sir Allan MacNab
Sir Winston Churchill
Horticulture & Landscaping Saltfleet
Hospitality & Tourism Ancaster High
Bernie Custis
Orchard Park
Sir Allan MacNab
Sir Winston Churchill
Information & Communications Ancaster
Nora Henderson
Justice, Community Safety & Emergency Services Nora Henderson
Manufacturing Dundas Valley
Nora Henderson
Sir Winston Churchill
Non-profit Glendale
Transportation Dundas Valley
Nora Henderson
Orchard Park
Sir Winston Churchill

Tier 3 interventions and/or supports include:

  • specialized support programs which require a low student-to-staff ratio in order to provide focused, direct and personalized assistance to students
  • non-credit special education programs for students who require intensive, continuous, and individualized support with a low student-to-staff ratio
  • individualized credit-granting programs for students unable to attend a traditional school setting for a period of time

Accelerated Literacy Program Hamilton Area (ALPHA)

ALPHA is an accelerated program for students aged 14 to 18 who have recently arrived in Ontario schools with limited prior schooling. In this program, students make significant gains in English language development literacy and numeracy skills as well as academic skills and knowledge. ALPHA is designed for students who are fluent in their home language and who would benefit from an accelerated program which allow for two years of learning to be addressed in one year. Students are referred to this program upon entry to HWDSB through the Assessment Centre. The goal is for the students to be successfully integrated into a regular classroom.

Native Youth Advancement With Education Hamilton, NYA:WEH

Provides a culturally based support for Aboriginal youth. The program combines two streams of education, Western and Traditional, which are integral to the success of Aboriginal youth. Specific support for First Nation, Metis and Inuit students in the following areas: Academic Assistance; Culturally Sensitive Resource; Social and Personal Consultation; Access to Tutors; and Student Advocacy. At Sir John A. Macdonald, Delta, Mountain and Sir Winston Churchill Secondary Schools. Learn more on our NYA:WEH page.

NuSteel Program

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. Keep up to date with all the great things happening with our blog nusteel.blogspot.ca

Graduated Support Program

Graduated Support Program Specific support for students including integration in the school and community, appropriate to the student’s strengths. Although they may not be earning credits, students in this program have the ability to achieve a level of independence in the community upon graduation. Learn more on our Special Education web page.

Extensive Support Program

Intensive, continuous, and individualized support. Collaboration with parents and community partners in order to provide appropriate programming and transition to community supports. Learn more on our Special Education web page.

Personalized Learning Support Program

An individualized educational alternative program for students who cannot learn in a regular school setting. Students remain connected to their home school. Learn more on our Special Education web page.

Young and Expecting Parent Program (YEPP)

This program for young and expecting parents (male or female) aged 14 to 21 is located at Sir John A MacDonald Secondary School. Students are able to bring their infant to the classroom with them. Students work with a Secondary School teacher to earn credits and also receive hands on parenting support from an Early Childhood Educator. Students have the opportunity to learn alongside other young parents and connect with a variety of community resources such as the Ontario Early Years Centres. Interested students should speak with a guidance counsellor at their school for registration information.


Updated on Friday, June 05, 2020.
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