Still no spot in Hamilton for new north high school

The Hamilton public school board has to build a new north-end high school by September 2016, but trustees still don’t know where they’re going to put it.

Pan Am precinct school must open by September 2016

The Hamilton public school board has to build a new north-end high school by September 2016, but trustees still haven't decided on a location. (iStock)

The public school board has to build a new north-end high school by September 2016, but trustees still don’t know where they’re going to put it.

After a lengthy debate Monday night, Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board trustees were still unable to settle on a location. The decision was down to two properties – Scott Park, and the current home of Parkview and King George schools.

But in a debate that went overtime, trustees voted to defer the decision for yet another month.

“We have 11 very diverse trustees with diverse opinions,” chair Tim Simmons said after the meeting.

“What we’re seeing here is a split board. We haven’t experienced this for a couple of years. When you have a split board, it’s an indication that maybe you need to slow down and look for other compromises.”

It was the latest in the complex process to find a site for the 1,250-student school, which the board is building with $32 million in provincial funding. The funding agreement dictates that the school must open by September 2016.

Earlier this year, the board announced plans to expropriate land that was once home to the former Scott Park Secondary School, which closed a decade ago.

Expropriation moves along 

The board approached city council about a partnership for its "plan A" - building a joint high school and recreation centre complex on the land. Councillors voted that down on Sept. 11.

That leaves the board with two options. If it builds on the 0.6-hectare (1.4-acre) Scott Park land, it would mean a five-storey high school with little parking and green space.

The other option - its "plan B" - is to close Parkview Secondary, a school for students with special needs, in 2014 and send its students to Delta Secondary. Then the board would demolish both King George and Parkview and build the new three-storey high school on the 1.5-hectare (3.6-acre) property. The city voted last week to place the King George building on a heritage list that would require a 60-day pause before the board is given a demolition permit.

All of these factors were discussed in Monday's debate, which followed a presentation from two board lawyers and the north school project manager.

The expropriation hearing for Scott Park is planned for Oct. 1, when an inquiry officer will rule on the board’s need for the land, said board lawyer Mark Giavedoni. The hearing officer will likely rule by the end of October.

Try again in October 

Trustees will vote again at either the Oct. 28 board meeting, or a special board meeting for the expropriation verdict.

“We haven’t really closed all the loops, and I can’t make a decision based on loose ends that haven’t been cleaned up,” said Flamborough trustee Karen Turkstra.

“Making this decision at 10:30, 11 at night just because is not right, and I won’t support it.”

The meeting had an awkward moment when Ancaster trustee Alex Johnstone, on vacation in Cuba, tried to participate over the phone.

The board clerk handed the phone to Turkstra, who had to loudly repeat the motion twice for Johnstone. That upset east Mountain trustee Laura Peddle.

'Greatly irresponsible'

“She can’t hear all of this?” Peddle said, who later added, “This is so wrong, this is so wrong.”

Simmons ruled that Johnstone could still vote. But trustee Todd White challenged that, calling it “greatly irresponsible” when Johnstone couldn’t hear the whole debate.

In the end, Johnstone was omitted from the vote.

Monday’s decision reverses the decision of the board’s standing committee last week, when trustees voted 6-5 to go ahead with the King George/Parkview site.

The new school will replace Sir John A. Macdonald, Delta and Parkview schools. 


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