Hamilton's public school board wants to partner with the city to build a new complex with a high school and recreation centre in the city's PanAm precinct.

Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) trustees voted Monday to send a letter to council asking to join in a "civic/recreational/educational project." The project would be located between Lottridge, Barton, King and Gage streets.

The idea is a complex that includes a new high school, which would open in September 2016, and other recreational amenities, said board chair Tim Simmons.

"The community, especially from the accommodation reviews, said they want something more than a high school in that area," he said. "Certainly the recreational services in that area haven't been upgraded in many, many years."

If the joint project went ahead, the board would need an agreement in place by March 27. The province has given the board $41 million for school projects, including a new $34,365,000 lower city high school, but the board has a deadline for spending it.

If an agreement doesn't happen by that date, the board has to move on, Simmons said.

"We have to get our build done on time."

The board is looking at locations for the complex, but hasn't selected one, Simmons said.

The decision was part of a larger capital plan approved Monday that includes $100 million in new builds and renovations. The board plans to build a new school on the Mountain and add to Saltfleet Secondary. It will also renovate Highland Secondary in Dundas to accommodate students from Parkside, which is scheduled to close, and renovate George R. Allan and Dalewood elementary schools in the west end.

Selling land to fund the schools

Trustees voted to sell off $63 million in vacant and excess land to make up the funding shortfall. If all goes according to plan, it will have $12 million left over, said Daniel Del Bianco, HWDSB senior facilities officer.

The amount is still only an estimate, but once the board factors in the land occupied by the schools it will soon close, it should be enough to make up the difference, Del Bianco said.

The breakdown of projects is as follows:

  • $34,365,000 to build a new lower city school to be completed by August 2016. This school will serve students from Sir John A. Macdonald, Delta and Parkview schools, which are scheduled to close.
  • $27,384,000 to build a build Mountain high school to be completed August 2016. This school will serve students from Barton, Hill Park and Mountain schools, which are scheduled to close.
  • $15 million to renovate Highland Secondary in Dundas to accommodate students of Parkside, which is scheduled to close. This work will be completed by fall 2015.
  • A new $5.4-million addition to Saltfleet Secondary scheduled for fall 2014.
  • $10,263,600 in renovations to Dalewood (completed by fall 2015) and $8,471,000 to George R. Allan (completed by September 2014). These renovations will help the schools absorb students from Prince Philip, which is scheduled to close.

Some trustees wanted staff to take another look at the plan. Flamborough trustee Karen Turkstra questioned why Highland was only getting $15 million in renovations while George R. Allan and Dalewood were getting a combined $19 million. It seems like it would be cheaper to build new elementary schools in their place, she said.

"It makes no fiscal sense for this board," she said.

Majority of Highland cost is 'legacy costs'

A large portion of renovations to George R. Allan and Dalewood are "legacy costs" — items such as windows, boilers and roof repairs, Del Bianco said.

That's the case with Highland too. Of the $15 million in renovations, $10 million are legacy items. The other $5 million will be for another gymnasium, new science labs and an expanded cafeteria.

Trustee Jessica Brennan, who represents Dundas, had a problem with that.

Trustees voted for Highland to get a minimum of $15 million in renovations, she said. And the board went with the lowest number.

"It's remarkable," she said of the plan. "It's exactly $15 million."