No money for lockers, grass in budget for new Amherstburg high school
Items costing about $5 million taken out of proposed budget
Plans for a new high school in Amherstburg, Ont. aren't quite what some town residents thought they'd be after items costing about $5 million were taken out of the proposed budget.
According to Coun. Don McArthur, people are expressing concerns with the plans — and the project needs more money to make it right. The approved Ministry allocation for the school construction is $25,985,519 — but several items had to be removed to bring the plans in under budget.
"The school is going to be in the centre of town," said McArthur. "You have one chance to really make a positive impact."
The project will build and open a new high school to combine two others — General Amherst and Western secondary schools. It also closes an existing running track, with no plans to rebuild. After a shared-use agreement was signed between the Greater Essex County District School Board and the Town of Amherstburg, losing amenities affects more than just students.
"Everything you put into this school will be shared by the entire community," said McArthur.
Some of the decisions made in the project seem "bizarre" to Coun. Michael Prue.
"A whole bunch of programs have been left out ... they even took out the budget for sod and grass, for painting the walls," said Prue. "It just doesn't make sense."
Left out of the plans include one of three gymnasiums requested, an auto shop and two Public Alternative Secondary School classrooms. Funding for lockers, retractable bleachers, wall paint, whiteboards, gym equipment and soccer goalposts has also been cut from the budget before the provincial government.
According to the GECDSB report, requests for pool and track facilities, and the addition of a greenhouse requested during public consultation are out of the scope of funding. Relocating murals and tiles from the General Amherst school building may also not be possible.
At Amherstburg town council, administration agreed to send a letter to the members of provincial parliament representing the area to address their concerns.
Public board's trustee chair responds via social media
Following the publication of CBC News's article, GECDSB board of trustees chair Ron LeClair used a Facebook post to respond to concerns expressed over the new Amherstburg secondary school.
"The comments and reports are premature on behalf of the council. As you are aware, we just approved a design concept based on needs and monies allocated four years ago," wrote LeClair. "We are in the early stages of this phase, which will include our administration and our hired professionals to work with the ministry on this project. We have not tendered this project yet, as we are still awaiting funding approval."
LeClair added that any potential funding concerns will be made more evident "once we have tendered and received responses back."
Windsor Ward 3 Coun. Rino Bortolin responded to LeClair's Facebook post through a comment, asking why the community was consulted "with an incomplete plan."
In response, to Bortolin's questions, LeClair said "the submission to the province has all the items needed to build the school."
"However, the plan also indicated that the funds committed four years ago, if not increased would result in a shortfall," LeClair wrote. "There were [concerns] being expressed in the community that the school was not going to be built. We were trying to alleviate those concerns."
"But we clearly didn't communicate the process correctly and that gap has resulted in this misunderstanding."
With files from Angelica Haggert