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Board staff says only $5.5 million needed to prepare Highland

By Craig Campbell, News Staff

Just over $5 million in renovations are needed to accommodate all Dundas high school students at Highland Secondary School in 2014, board staff told trustees Monday night.

Trustees voted 9-2 in favour of closing Parkside in June 2014 and merging the two schools into a renovated Highland three months later.

But exactly what renovations will be made are unclear, as the school board needs Ministry of Education approval for any capital work, and provincial funding to achieve a goal of $15 million in improvements.

Associate director of education Ken Bain told trustees the total cost of accommodating approximately 1,000 students at Highland is $5.5 million. The board will ask the ministry for almost $10-million in additional funding for deferred maintenance work.

“We don’t need to spend $15 million,” director of education John Malloy said. “It would cost much less (than that) to accommodate all students on the Highland site. Staff hope to do much more than simply accommodate.”

Before voting in favour of the motion to close Parkside and renovate Highland, trustee Todd White said: “If we don’t get money from the province, we’re going to have a problem on the Highland site.”

Trustee Laura Peddle asked repeated questions to clarify exactly what the proposed renovations include and how staff actually plan to accommodate all Dundas high school students in the Highland building.

Don Hall, the board’s facilities manager, said Parkside would require an addition to accommodate all Dundas high school students but Highland would not.

Hall said six science labs will be renovated and three new classrooms added to Highland, all within existing space. No new space would be created.

“I’m struggling with how this solution is the best learning environment,” Peddle said. “I’m not convinced we have the plan right for either (Highland or Parkside). I’m disappointed with that.”

Bain acknowledged portables may be needed to temporarily accommodate all students until projected declines in enrollment take place.

Trustee Karen Turkstra supported renovating Parkside rather than Highland. She argued the option would save the board much more money and therefore was more valuable. Turkstra also suggested the opportunity to use the Dundas Driving Park, rather than the board owning its own sports fields, was an additional bonus of the smaller Parkside site.

“We’re not very good at owning our own site,” Turkstra said. “Fields are not very well maintained.”
The Highland option passed after a motion by Dundas trustee Jessica Brennan for a new school at the Highland site failed 6-5.

Brennan argued the community needs and deserves a new school.

Turkstra supported the new school motion and suggested the board request a new school in each of the three areas under review.

“We have not been demanding of the province,” she said. “We should ask wholeheartedly for a new school.”

But Judith Bishop and other trustees agreed new schools in the north and south review areas should take priority over Dundas, and asking for a third new school could hurt the board’s business plan.

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