East Hamilton school closure plan 'good enough' for now
'It was very emotionally and physically draining'
In what they called a hybrid solution, or “good enough for now,” Hamilton public school board trustees have voted to close two east Hamilton elementary schools instead of four.
Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board trustees voted Monday night to close Woodward, built in 1951, and Roxborough Park, built in 1960, in June 2015. The original plan called for closing Parkdale and Rosedale too.
But closing four schools in one neighbourhood is too much right now, said trustee Todd White, who proposed the “hybrid solution.” It’s better to close two for now and look at the other two in a few years.
“This is a transition the community can follow and can recover from,” he said.
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East Hamilton is part of a sweeping accommodation review that will see trustees vote to close 11 elementary schools from west Flamborough to central Mountain. Trustees have already voted to close five.
Their decision will be ratified at a board meeting on June 16.
Monday’s motion, which passed 7-4, still leaves empty spaces in east Hamilton schools. Rosedale, for example, will be at 78 per cent capacity in 2015 under the new plan, and W. H. Ballard will be at 68 per cent. But staff will bring back a plan on how to use Ballard’s unused space, and on new boundaries to more evenly distribute students.
It’s not a perfect solution, said trustee Tim Simmons. But the goal is to “bring some of the lustre back to these schools in the future.”
“For now, it’s good enough for what we need to do in this area.”
With Monday’s decision, the board will invest at least $4 million – the estimated income from selling Woodward and Roxborough Park – into the remaining schools, which need substantial repairs.
If the two schools didn’t close, the board would have $9,445,165 in urgent repairs over the next five years and more than $27 million in repair costs over the next decade.
Board staff initially recommended closing four schools and asking the province for money to build a new 550-student school at the Viscount Montgomery site.
“I’m hoping this is the right decision for the community.- Parent Abbie Boyko
That’s what Abbie Boyko, the parent behind the effort to save Parkdale, thought was going to happen. She cried tears of joy outside the meeting.
“We’ve been doing this since October,” she said. “I’m elated.”
She was on the accommodation review committee, she said, and “it was very emotionally and physically draining.”
“I’m hoping this is the right decision for the community.”
Parkdale supporters waved signs and wore red shirts as they sat in the audience. Others held signs that said “Slow Down: East Hamilton Community Hybrid Plan.”
Five year wait
Under provincial guidelines, the board can’t study that area for potential school closures again for another five years unless there are extraordinary circumstances.
But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible, chair Jessica Brennan said.
“If there are some exceptions, then that means perhaps you could go in three and a half or four years and make the case that you have to look at it again,” she said.
“Not that I’m suggesting we would. I’m just saying this seems to me like a phased-in approach for solving the issues in that neighbourhood.”
The board has already ratified a decision to close Bell Stone school in Glanbrook. Last week, trustees voted to close Dr. John Seaton, Greensville, Beverly Central and Spencer Valley schools and build new schools at Beverly Central and Greensville. Both new schools assume the ability to hammer out partnerships with the city of Hamilton.
On Monday, trustees will vote on the fate of three central Mountain schools – Eastmount Park, Linden Park and Cardinal Heights.
Those decisions will also be ratified at a June 16 board meeting.
How they voted
Trustees in favour:
Tim Simmons, Alex Johnstone, Jessica Brennan, Todd White, Wes Hicks, Shirley Glauser, Karen Turkstra, student trustees Filip Susic and Carly Van Egdom
Laura Peddle, Judith Bishop, Ray Mulholland, Lillian Orban
Roxborough Park (due to close in 2015)
- Built: 1960
- Urgent capital needs over the next five years: $1,083,461
Woodward (due to close in 2015)
- Built: 1951
- Urgent capital needs over the next five years: 855,347
W. H. Ballard
- Built: 1922
- Capital needs over five years: $2,899,492
- Built: 1946
- Capital needs: $2,449,963
- Built: 2006 (rebuilt)
- Capital needs: $0
- Built: 1953
- Capital needs: $336,346
- Built: 1951
- Capital needs: $1,820,556