HWDSB holds final consultations before school closure vote

Hamilton residents will have the opportunity, starting this week, to weigh in at a series of meetings on a dramatic plan to close a total of 10 public elementary schools in three areas of the city.

Coun. Judi Partridge says board hasn't been clear on how residents can get involved

Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board Chair Jessica Brennan, centre, said she "want[s] to hear what people ideas are" about a plan to close a total of 10 public elementary schools in three areas of Hamilton. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

HWDSB accommodation review delegation nights at Hamilton City Hall

  • West Flamborough — Tuesday, April 29, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
  • East Hamilton — Monday, May 5, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Central Mountain — Tuesday, May 6, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

To speak at a session, delegates must register by noon on the day of they wish to attend. To register, contact Tracy McKillop by email at tmckillo@hwdsb.on.ca or by phone at 905-527-5092 ext. 2261.

For more information, go to the school board's elementary accommodation review page

Hamilton residents will have the opportunity starting this week to weigh in at a series of meetings about a dramatic plan to close a total of 10 elementary schools in three areas of the city.  

On Tuesday, the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) will host a 6 p.m. community consultation at city hall about a staff recommendation to shutter three schools in West Flamborough and replace or expand two more. The board is set to hold two more sessions at city hall next week to get feedback on similar proposals for East Hamilton and the Central Mountain.

The meetings represent the last round of community consultations before trustees vote on the current slate of school closure plans, which promise to save the board millions of dollars, but also threaten to alter the fabric of several long-established Hamilton neighbourhoods.

Ward 15 Coun. Judi Partridge said she’ll be in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting and expects trustees to get an earful from Flamborough residents who are angry about the proposed shutdown of Millgrove Elementary School. The century-old facility is situated in a rural village on Concession Road 5 near Highway 6 that is already slated to lose its public library in the fall

“If you shut that school down, you’re basically tearing that community apart,” Partridge said.

The Flamborough councillor said she’s also heard complaints about the handling of the accommodation review, the provincially mandated process that dictates how school boards must go about deciding to close schools or build new ones.

Coun. Judi Partridge of Flamborough says she's received emails from resident who say they're "confused" about how to voice their concerns about the proposed school closures. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

In particular, Partridge said, some residents are “confused” about how community members can register to speak at the upcoming meetings.   

“There’s been little notification to let people know what the process is or how to do this.”

Jessica Brennan, chair of the HWDSB, said she finds Partridge’s comments “curious” and said Flamborough trustee Karen Turkstra has worked hard to inform her constituents about how they can participate.

“I think she’s been very open in communicating in many places about what the process is and how people can get involved.”

The board, Brennan added, has shared the information widely and has made it easily accessible on the HWDSB website.

Final votes set for June

The public meetings represent the last chance for public input into the accommodation reviews for schools in the West Flamborough, Central Mountain and East Hamilton areas. The process has seen a committee of community stakeholders from each of those regions advise the board on which schools it should close, renovate or replace. 

HWDSB staff then made their own recommendations based upon the committees’ suggestions and authored a report that was presented at a board meeting in late March.

Facing dwindling enrolment and aging infrastructure at many of its schools, the board can save tens of millions of dollars if it consolidates its resources, the document suggests.

HWDSB staff have recommended the closure of Millgrove Elementary School as part of a plan that would save the board tens of millions of dollars. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The pressure to close schools, Brennan said in March, stems from provincial policies that dictate how boards are allotted funding for capital projects.

Armed with the suggestions of staff, the accommodation review committees and other Hamilton residents, trustees are set to vote on the fates of the schools on June 6. A final ratification vote is slated for June 16.

They will also vote on a plan to close Bell Stone school in Glanbrook and send its students to Mount Hope Elementary.

Brennan says she’s looking forward to hearing residents’ reactions to the staff recommendation and to how the accommodation review has been conducted.

"I certainly, as one trustee, want to hear what people ideas are," she said. 

“Our fiscal reality isn’t going to go away, but we’re certainly inviting people to say what they have to say about the process."

Breakdown of staff recommendations

Board staff made its report in response to proposals authored by three accommodation review committees (ARCs), which were tasked to make recommendations on future of schools in West Flamborough, on the Central Mountain and in East Hamilton. Each ARC was made up of community stakeholders — including a trustee, parents and school staff — from the area it was assigned to study.

Here’s a summary of board staff’s recommendations on which schools should close and which ones should be replaced or expanded. It includes maps that show the schools that have been flagged for closure. Click on each one for more information.

West Flamborough:

  • Close Dr. John Seaton, Millgrove and Greensville schools in June 2016
  • Build a new 350-student school at the Beverly Community Centre or on the existing Beverly Central school site (pending funding from the province), or expand the existing Beverly Central facility
  • Build a new 525-student facility on the site of the current Spencer Valley school (pending funding from the province), or expand the existing building

Financial impact: Closing the three schools and replacing two others, the staff report suggests, would save the board $22.6 million in capital and renewal costs over the next 10 years — provided the old properties are sold off and Ontario's Ministry of Education picks up the $16.8-million tab to erect the new schools. Even if the provincial money isn’t forthcoming, the board can expect to save millions, especially when reduced operational costs are factored in.

East Hamilton:

  • Close Parkdale, Roxborough Park and Woodward schools in June 2015
  • Close Rosedale school in June 2016
  • Build a new 550-student school on the site of the existing Viscount Montgomery school (pending funding from the province)
  • In absence of new provincial money, build an addition onto Viscount Montgomery school and renovate Hillcrest and W.H. Ballard schools to accommodate more students

Financial impact: If the old properties are sold off and the province kicks in funding for a new $10-million building at the Viscount Montgomery site, the board can expect savings in the ballpark of $27.7 million on capital and renewal costs, the report suggests. 

Central Mountain:

  • Close Eastmount Park, Linden Park and Cardinal Heights schools in June 2015
  • Build additions at Queensdale, Franklin Road, Pauline Johnson and Ridgemount schools to accommodate more students
  • Renovate George L. Armstrong school to create new full-day kindergarten class

Financial impact: Closing three Mountain schools and selling off the properties would save the school board $17.9 million, staff estimate. The bulk of the savings would come from not having to renovate the schools that have been flagged for closure. Because this plan doesn’t involve the building of any new schools, it doesn’t rely upon a large infusion of Ministry of Education money for capital projects.

With files from Samantha Craggs


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