School council representatives at Dr. John Seaton and Beverly Central elementary schools expressed relief and satisfaction after learning the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board’s (HWDSB’s) finance and facilities committee decided last week that both schools should continue to operate independently next year.
A school board staff recommendation suggested last year that students from Beverly Central should join those at Dr. Seaton School in Sheffield for the 2017-18 school year. Then, in September 2018, all students would move to a new school on the Beverly Community Centre site near Rockton.
Consultation with parents on the temporary accommodation proposal drew overwhelming opposition, leading to the committee’s unanimous decision to maintain the status quo.
“That’s what we wanted to hear,” said Tanya Brouwer, co-chair of the Beverly Central Parent Council, Tuesday. Sue Moelker, chair of the Dr. Seaton School Council, echoed her comments. “I think it’s fantastic news; that’s the direction most parents wanted it to go,” said the mother of three who has two sons attending Seaton School.
The committee recommendation still needs ratification from the school board at its Feb. 27 meeting.
Brouwer and Moelker said they expect there will be at least one representative from their respective school councils at the upcoming meeting, where they hope the committee’s recommendation will be endorsed.
At consultation meetings held in mid-December and on Feb. 1, parents voiced health and safety concerns about the well water and septic system at Dr. Seaton School, particularly if it had to accommodate 182 students from Beverly Central along with 200 of its own.
They also expressed concerns about the impact of two consecutive moves, one to Seaton in 2017-18 and the other to the new school in September 2018, on the learning and well-being of Beverly Central students.
Some also felt the temporary accommodation plan was financially driven and asked for a cost comparison of the status quo versus moving the Beverly Central students to Seaton School for one year.
At the Feb. 1 consultation meeting at Beverly Central School, a handout from school board staff stated that joining the two schools for one year would be cost neutral. Any savings made by closing Beverly Central would be offset by the costs of moving, adding two portables at Seaton School and making minor renovations there to accommodate the Beverly Central students, the handout said.
In a report to the finance and facilities committee last week, superintendent of student achievement Bill Torrens stated that an analysis of financial impacts indicates “there would be no significant cost savings,” if the board were to proceed with the transition plan. His report also said, “Both schools can be operated safely, without major capital outlay, until the new school opens.”
The new 40,000-square-foot school is designed to accommodate 347 students. Drawings are being finalized and the school board is working with the City of Hamilton on site plan approval.
Approvals from the ministry of transportation and the ministry of the environment and climate change are also required before the project can move ahead.
The site of the new school, on Hwy. 8 just south of Rockton, includes an arena, community centre and recreation facilities.