By Richard Leitner • METROLAND WEST MEDIA GROUP
Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board chair Tim Simmons says he’s optimistic a plan to open at least two new secondary schools by September 2015 can become a reality thanks to an infusion of $40.7 million in provincial cash.
A new high school to replace Delta, Parkview and Sir John A. Macdonald in the lower city will receive $31.8 million as part of $711 million in province-wide capital funding announced by the Ministry of Education on Jan. 17.
The board will also get $5.4 million for a long-waited addition to Saltfleet District High School in upper Stoney Creek and $3.5 million to upgrade Dalewood Middle School in Westdale as part of a plan to close Prince Philip Elementary School.
“We see this as a reward for doing the hard work,” Simmons said, referring to accommodation reviews that led to a renewal plan that could close seven of 18 high schools in exchange for up to three new ones.
“This will go a long way to help us realize our dreams for modernizing the school board and creating 21st-Century learning spaces for our students,” he said. “We’re ecstatic.”
Simmons said the ministry has also indicated it will help fund the purchase of land for a new $25-million Mountain high school south of the Lincoln Alexander Parkway that will replace Barton, Hill Park and Mountain secondary schools.
He said staff will now prepare business cases for the Mountain school as well as a plan to either expand or rebuild Highland Secondary School in Dundas so it can accommodate students from Parkside, set to close in June 2015.
Those business plans, which require both trustee and ministry approval, will mostly rely on the sale of surplus school properties to fund the projects, he said, noting the board doesn’t have the OK for a $25-million Dundas high school.
Renovating and expanding Highland is expected to cost about $15 million.
“Staff’s got to crunch the numbers and look at what properties we might go to 444 with,” Simmons said, referring to the regulation governing the sale of surplus land. “Then they’ll be able to address whether it’s realistic for a new school.”
Hamilton’s Catholic board also got some good news, receiving $9.8 million for a new elementary school to be built on Barton Street in Winona across from Winona Park – albeit less than the $12 million requested.
Board chair Pat Daly said the funding will allow for construction of a 500-seat school, 100 fewer than hoped.
“That doesn’t take away from our appreciation,” he said. “We’re pleased that we got something and that we can build a school to relieve the overcrowding at Immaculate Heart of Mary.”