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Bell-Stone first to fall in elementary closure reviews

Mount Hope to get bigger gym as part of $2 million in upgrades

By Richard Leitner, News Staff

Bell-Stone is the first victim of four Hamilton public elementary school accommodation reviews and will shut its doors at the end of June.

Trustees unanimously agreed on Monday to close the west Glanbrook school and shift its students to Mount Hope Elementary School this fall.

But they went beyond a staff recommendation by approving spending up to $500,000 to expand Mount Hope’s gym and resurface its playground and parking lot.

The staff plan already included $1.5 million in upgrades, including to windows and washrooms, the cost of which will be partly offset by the sale of Bell-Stone, expected to generate $400,000.

Located by the corner of Nebo and White Church roads, Bell-Stone has only 55 students – about 30 per cent of its 181 capacity – a situation that forced grades 1, 2 and 3 to share a classroom.

Alex Johnstone, the area’s trustee, said she’s saddened by the closure but the extra $500,000 in upgrades at Mount Hope will uphold the board’s commitment to make “all schools great schools.”

The Airport Road school is projected to be at 99 per cent of its 365-student capacity this fall and will see its gym expanded by half, to 3,000 square feet.

“Mount Hope is a growing community,” Johnstone said. “New housing units are going to be going in, so I think the students there certainly deserve a proper gym space as well as proper parking and playground resurfacing.”

The decision, expected to be ratified at the May 26 board meeting, largely mirrors the first of two options recommended by a volunteer review committee.

The other option called on the board to initiate a second review that would also include Bellmoore school, but Johnstone said doing so would jeopardize potential provincial funding for a new elementary school in Binbrook, which is experiencing a housing boom.

Despite voting in support of the revised recommendation, east Mountain trustee Laura Peddle questioned spending the extra $500,000 before making final decisions on the three other ARCs, including one that could close up to four central Mountain schools.

She said previous closures, including four in her area, haven’t included upgrades to the gyms of amalgamated schools.

“We never touched their gyms, ever,” she said.

Senior facilities officer Daniel Del Bianco said Mount Hope’s gym expansion will meet new Ministry of Education benchmarks and schools in a similar situation in the other three ARCs will get the same consideration.

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