By Craig Campbell, Dundas Star News
Parkside High School students will be able to take courses only offered at Highland Secondary School starting next September, as the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board begins a transition to one local high school on the Highland site.
Despite no Provincial government funding for a new Dundas school – or renovations to Highland – local school board trustee Jessica Brennan is optimistic the one remaining Dundas high school will receive significant improvements in time for the planned closure of Parkside in the summer of 2014.
“We’re getting a lot of money,” Brennan said of the more than $40.7-million dollars for three capital projects announced by the province last week. ”It’s something to be pleased about.
“I’m disappointed there’s nothing allotted for a new school in Dundas. That’s still my preference.”
But Brennan said the large influx of capital money for expansion of west Hamilton’s George R. Allan School, Stoney Creek’s Saltfleet Secondary School, and a new high school in the North area should free up some of the board’s own money for Dundas.
She noted the board of trustees passed a back-up motion to their plan for a new Dundas high school – no less than $15-million in renovations to Highland.
“That’s a significant amount of money,” Brennan said.
Board staff told trustees in the spring $15-million in renovations would not be necessary, and all students could be accommodated at Highland with about $5.5-million in renovations.
At that time, trustee Todd White said: "If we don' t get money from the province, we're going to have a problem on the Highland site."
Brennan suggested last week it’s her job now to advocate for board funding for a new or renovated high school in Dundas, and said she’ll work with fellow trustees and board staff as a business plan is prepared for February.
In the meantime, Brennan said the process of transitioning to one Dundas high school at Highland has already begun.
She said starting in September 2013, Highland and Parkside students will all have common option sheets. This will allow Parkside students to take courses offered at Highland but not at their school because enrollment has dropped too low to offer special programs.
“Students can feel comfortable at their traditional home school, and be able to take the classes they want,” Brennan said.
She also said a music band program that didn’t have the necessary number of participants to be run at Parkside is currently available at Highland, and Parkside students interested in taking part are in the Highland band.
“We have a joint activity,” Brennan said, adding she doesn’t see the lack of provincial funding as any potential delay to the plan for one Dundas high school.
“I don’t see it changing. We’re moving relatively quickly,” she said.