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Closure cash to pay for Ancaster, Dundas school upgrades

New labs, renovations ‘payoff’ for tough ARC decisions, trustee says

By Richard Leitner, News Staff

A three-year plan to fix up Ancaster High School will begin this summer with the repaving of the parking lot, new sidewalks, a realignment of the fire access and renovation of its “learning commons,” or library.

The work is part of a five-year strategy to revitalize Hamilton’s public high schools and will be largely funded from a projected $27 million in property proceeds from the closure of Barton, Hill Park, Mountain and the sale of vacant sites.

The money is no longer needed for the construction of the new Frances Nora Henderson High School on the southeast Mountain because the province is footing the $33-million bill for the 1,250-student building, as it is for a new high school by the Pan Am stadium.

The latter will replace Delta, Sir John. A. Macdonald and Parkview high schools.

Presented to the school board’s finance subcommittee, the strategy also provides $15 million to upgrade Dundas Valley Secondary School – formerly Highland – to accommodate students from Parkside, scheduled to close in June of next year.

The work includes six new labs, renovated classrooms, a new gym, expanded cafeteria, new windows, security and technology upgrades, and a wheelchair -accessible entrance.

Committee member Wes Hicks praised the plan.

“It’s been a tough go with the ARCs,” the west Mountain trustee said afterwards, referring to contentious closure reviews.

“However, when you get to this point, you look back and say it was well worth it. Things are starting to fall into place and the public will be able to see exactly what the payoff of what we’re trying to do is.”

The second phase of Ancaster High’s upgrades, scheduled for the summer of next year, includes science labs, storage, prep rooms and offices.

The final stage, in the summer of 2016, will cover technology labs, electrical upgrades, specialized support program space, student services, administrative space, teachers’ workrooms and the cafeteria, according to a staff report.

The revitalization strategy gives priority to schools listed in poor condition and comes as the school board is still in the midst of finalizing the purchase of the 11.6-hectare (29-acre) site for Henderson High, scheduled to open in September 2016.

Hicks, who expects the deal to close shortly, said the school’s sports facilities will include an artificial-turf playing field, bleachers, a proper track and a gym large enough to host games, warm-ups and practices at the same time.

“It will be the state-of-the-art high school for OFSAA championships as well as your academic labs or science labs and so forth,” Hicks said, noting the sprawling property gives the board plenty of flexibility on designing the outdoor features.

“We’re really, really excited about that because a lot times when you build high schools you don’t have the opportunity to have the acreage that allows you to space things out,” he said.

“The design has incorporated a potential expansion of students, so if we put an addition on, it’s right in the original design.”

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