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Ancaster High escapes scrutiny of board trustees

By Mike Pearson, News Staff

Public school board trustees rejected a motion that would have forbidden selling part of the Ancaster High School property to fund the construction of a new Dundas high school.

While the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board’s trustees later voted against a new Dundas high school, trustees were hesitant to grant blanket approval for the preservation of the 44-acre green space that encompasses Ancaster High’s Jerseyville Road campus.

Rather than build a new high school at the Highland Secondary School site in Dundas, trustees voted to spend $15 million to renovate Highland, coupled with the closure of Parkside Secondary School in 2014.

A plan to build a new high school on the Highland site was defeated in a 6-5 vote. Board staff acknowledged the $15-million Highland plan is contingent upon securing $10 million in provincial funding.

No changes to Ancaster High School were approved at Monday’s committee of the whole meeting.

Ancaster trustee Alex Johnstone, who proposed an amendment to restrict the sale of any part of the Ancaster High property to finance a new Dundas school, argued her constituents are concerned about the potential loss of land.

The school board’s West Accommodation Review Committee recommended two new high schools to replace Highland, Parkside and Ancaster High.

Board figures show that Ancaster High’s enrollment is expected to remain well below its 1,300-student capacity. A board projection predicts 882 students in the Ancaster catchment area in the year 2020.

With no action taken to address accomodations for the Ancaster High catchment, trustees hinted at the possibilty of examining a new school to replace both Ancaster High and Sir Allan MacNab. MacNab is part of the board’s south ARC.

“It’s obvious Ancaster has not been dealt with. I think we limit ourselves by putting it under the west ARC,” trustee Judith Bishop said.

Trustee Laura Peddle introduced a motion to have staff come back with a recommendation in November on how to proceed with completing the work of the west ARC as it relates to Ancaster.

“We have not done anything with the problem at Ancaster,” said Peddle. “How do we close out the ARC without that? Ancaster is part of the west ARC.”

HWDSB Director John Molloy said the board will examine remaining work that needs to be done in January, 2013.
Peddle’s motion failed in a 7-3 vote.

“Ancaster High is one of the few growth areas across our board,” said Johnstone. “I think we need to retain our growth needs. We need to reaffirm that the land will not be touched at this time.”

The Ancaster High site includes 10 soccer fields used by the Ancaster Soccer Club, as well as a 700-seat auditorium that hosts Theatre Ancaster performances.

But trustee Laura Peddle argued the school board is not in the business of providing surplus land to the community.

“Our mandate is not to provide land,” said Peddle. “Our mandate is to provide education delivery across our region.”
Johnstone’s motion was defeated on a 6-4 vote.

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