By Craig Campbell, Dundas Star News
Show us the money.
That’s the first message from a grassroots group of Dundas residents not satisfied with Hamilton Wentworth District School Board financing of high school education in Dundas.
They say more money is owed to Dundas to fund a new vision for secondary school education, after years of neglect for Valley Town high schools.
While there was still some disagreement around a vision for high school education in Dundas, there was agreement among the 17 people who met at Dundas town hall Friday night that the board’s existing proposal does not give Dundas the financial support it deserves.
Although some said more money is needed to provide the best possible single high school at the Highland site, others argued more money is needed to maintain both buildings as separate campuses of the same high school.
There was some support for continuing the temporary two-campus plan that will kick off a transition to one school, next school year.
Students will have the option of choosing a “home school” to be based at, and they will be able to take courses offered at the other Dundas high school. That applies to students at both Parkside and Highland for September 2013.
Parkside is scheduled to close in June 2014. Other options for September 2014 were to be considered if funding for a new school was awarded by the province, but that did not happen – so the June 2014 Parkside closure date is still the Board’s plan.
Some at Friday’s meeting would prefer to see the one-school, two-campus idea, where all students can take options at both locations, continue beyond next year – creating one school with two campuses.
“I think it makes sense,” said Central school parent Michelle Chin. “Next year we effectively have two campuses.”
Some at the meeting were worried underfunding of high schools in Dundas will contribute to declining enrollment, and might mean Dundas’ single remaining high school could potentially be closed too.
“Our fear is we’ll lose a (high) school in Dundas altogether,” said one parent.
There’s also a fear that as the next couple of years progress, the amount of money budgeted for improving Highland will drop, adding to the chances of enrolment declining and the last Dundas high school being closed.
Dundas trustee Jessica Brennan did not attend Friday night’s meeting, but said this week the board has made a minimum commitment to spend $15-million on improvements to Highland.
“The motion says ‘at least’ $15-million, not ‘up to’ $15-million,” Brennan said. “I’ve certainly been very vocal about getting more money, if needed.”
Brennan also said she hopes there will be an opportunity to partner with the City of Hamilton and private investors to improve the Highland building. One goal she suggested is to add an auditorium that would benefit the wider community.