By Craig Campbell, Dundas Star News
City staff will not study the community impact of Parkside Secondary School’s closure, despite a request to do so from Dundas Community Council.
Michelle Sergi, manager of community planning at the City of Hamilton, said a framework is being developed to assess impacts of future school closures across the city — but the model will not be applied to Parkside.
“The intent is to provide broader input to the (Accommodation Review) process and potential school closures,” Sergi said. “It is early in the process, so I am not able to provide details at this point.”
Parkside was officially “closed” by the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board last month, but will continue operating as part of the two-campus Dundas Valley Secondary School while anticipated construction continues at Highland until August 2015.
City staff is deviating from the original community council motion that was referred by city council to the director of planning on April 23. It was specifically for a Parkside closure impact study — and did not refer to input for Accommodation Reviews.
Planning staff were directed to report back to councillors on the city’s planning committee — but no report has been presented. Sergi confirmed that report is still pending.
“That’s too bad,” said Bob James, the Dundas Community Council member who moved the motion for the Parkside closure impact study, about city staff’s decision to reject the request. He confirmed staff’s plan was not in keeping with the intent of the original motion.
According to that motion, an impact assessment of Parkside’s closure could form the template for future school closure assessments.
There appears to be some confusion among staff over the status of Parkside and its immediate future. It’s not clear why the Parkside closure impact study is being ignored.
Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board officially closed Parkside this June, but is delaying offering it for sale until March 2015 at the earliest. Board staff says they will not sell the school until they know whether they will still need it beyond June 2015.
For the September 2014 to June 2015 school year the Parkside building is expected to remain in use as a second campus of Dundas Valley Secondary School while two additions are added to the Highland building on Governor’s Road. Internal renovations have already started with asbestos removal.
School board and city building department staff are currently working on details of a building permit application to move ahead with the additions. The city sent a Deficiency Letter to the school board on June 27 rejecting the application
“This is a normal part of the building application process. The city identifies items within the building application that require more details,” said board spokesperson Jackie Penman. “The board and city staff will work together to address any items over the next few weeks. Once all outstanding items are addressed, the building permit would be issued.”
City staff would not reveal the details of the Deficiency Letter or explain why it rejected the permit application. Hamilton Community News has filed a Municipal Freedom of Information request for the secret document. Building Division Director Ed Vanderwindt suggested the application did not conform to the Dundas Official Plan and Zoning bylaw.
Penman said the city is simply asking for “the make and model of the elevator, make and model of the backflow preventer and the final design output for the energy efficiency modeling program…. and how the acid neutralizer is going to be connected.”
Penman stressed ongoing work to get the building permit approved will not affect the board’s construction schedule. She said a Deficiency Letter and subsequent communication between city and board staff have marked the building permit process each time board had tried to build something.
City planning department spokesperson Ann Lamanes confirmed the Deficiency Letter is in keeping with standard practice.
“As with any project of this size and scope, there are always things that come up that need clarification in order for plans to move forward,” Lamanes said.
In the meantime, any work that involves replacement of components in the school, updating of material or removal of asbestos can proceed without a building permit.
Lamanes said city staff visited the school as recently as last Thursday and determined construction work taking place did not require any city permits.