Hamilton school board closing 3 central Mountain schools

Parents from three central Mountain neighbourhoods are smarting this week from a Monday night public school board decision to close their schools.

Linden Park, Eastmount Park and Cardinal Heights will close in June 2015

George Baier, a Linden Park parent, sits next to the school's mascot as he waits for trustees to make a decision on the future of the central Mountain school. Public school board trustees voted to close Eastmount Park, Linden Park and Cardinal Heights. In total, trustees have voted to close 10 schools this year and build two new ones, both in Flamborough. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Parents from three central Mountain neighbourhoods are smarting this week from a Monday night public school board decision to close their schools.

Pending a final June 16 vote, Linden Park, Eastmount Park and Cardinal Heights will close in June 2015. Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board trustees voted to close them at a standing committee meeting Monday.

The mood was heavy for Linden Park parents, who showed up in school shirts and a large bear representing the school's mascot.

“I'm in shock right now,” said George Baier, a Linden Park supporter and father of two. “It's definitely not good and there's definitely gong to be some changes coming for our family.”

Monday's decision was the latest in a sweeping accommodation review that saw 11 schools up for closure from Flamborough to east Hamilton. With Monday's decision, trustees have voted to close 10 schools and build two new ones. 

Eastmount Park students will go to G. L. Armstrong. Linden Park students will go to Queensdale or Franklin Road. Cardinal Heights students will go to Pauline Johnson or Ridgemount.

The board initiated the accommodation review last June with a mandate to eliminate excess pupil places and capital costs on the aging buildings. Combined, the schools are at about 71-per cent capacity. Staff estimate closing the schools will save the board $17.9 million.

The central Mountain review was difficult, said chair Jessica Brennan, in part because it was a large group of eight similar schools. The accommodation review committee looked at 35 scenarios.

One of the committee recommendations, for example, was to not only keep Linden Park open, but renovate it and expand its gym to accommodate more students. 

Linden Park parent Leslie Baier says she attended Monday's meeting thinking that option would be discussed too, but it wasn't.

Sarah Warry-Poljanski, who has children at Linden Park and Cardinal Heights, is running for trustee for ward 7 after experiencing the process. 

“I was thinking of it,” she said. But going through the accommodation review process, “I thought 'OK, we have to get in there and change this up.'”

The decision is difficult for the three schools, said chair Jessica Brennan, who was once part of a parent group that fought a school closure in Dundas. The board, she said, “could be doing better” at bridging the gap between board and community that school closures create.

“It is a healing process,” she said. “It is an acceptance and then it's a moving forward.”

But Leah LaRiviere, a Linden Park parent, says her family might sell their home now. They live right across from the school.

“I'm not going to live next to a school that's going to be abandoned for however long it's going to be empty for,” she said. “For the last 10 years, it hasn't been maintained properly, so I can just imagine what's going to happen now.”

What happens next

The board will ratify its decisions on east Hamilton, central Mountain and west Flamborough on June 16. Those decisions are as follows:

East Hamilton: Close Woodward and Roxborough Park. Parkdale and Rosedale, originally considered for closure, stay open.

West Flamborough: Close Dr. John Seaton, Greensville, Spencer Valley and Beverly Central and build new schools at Greensville and the Beverly Community Centre pending agreements with the city. Millgrove, originally considered for closure, stays open.

Central Mountain: Close Linden Park, Eastmount Park and Cardinal Heights.

The board already voted in May to close Bell Stone school and send its students to Mount Hope.


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