Plans to close Prince Philip Elementary School next June have been thrown off schedule by delays in getting Ministry of Education funding for renovations to accommodate displaced students at George R. Allan School.
Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board education director John Malloy dropped the bombshell on Monday in response to questions from trustees during a verbal update on upgrades for full-day kindergarten at G.R. Allan, also awaiting funding.
The latter upgrades aren’t likely to be completed by next September either, trustees were told.
Malloy said the window has already passed for meeting the construction timeframes to close Prince Philip in June and it will likely be January before staff recommends a revised plan.
“If I were to make any other predictions it means that I have some way of predicting when the ministry is going to provide the information, which is the starting point for the entire process,” he said.
“When we hear from the Ministry of Education, we will then be able to propose to you what we are able to say.”
Mountain trustee Laura Peddle, whose questioning prompted Malloy to reveal the closure delay, said the board should put all school closures on hold until it learns how much funding the province will provide.
Besides Prince Philip, trustees have approved the closure of seven high schools – Parkside, Barton, Hill Park, Mountain, Delta, Parkview and Sir John A. Macdonald – to deal with declining enrolment.
The plan is predicated on using money from the sale of surplus school sites and about $84 million in ministry funding to upgrade G.R. Allan, rebuild at Highland Secondary School and build a new high school on the south Mountain and in the lower city.
“This is another example of why, in my mind, we shouldn’t be moving forward with anything until we know all of it,” Peddle said of the G.R. Allan renovations.
“January’s around the corner. We’ve been sending all kinds of mixed messages to our public. We’re sending mixed messages to the ministry on what we can fund on our own,” she said.
“That’s probably not the best strategic or tactical way to achieve the outcomes that we want for the students of this board.”
But board chair Tim Simmons said trustees shouldn’t expect the process to unfold in “a nice, neat, clean, orderly” way because it’s contingent on ministry funding at a time when Queen’s Park is in flux.
“It’s not going to get any better than this. You can say all you want, but this is the way it’s going to go. You also have what’s going on in the provincial government side of things, which has caused a lot of unknowns,” he said.
“We’ve been the decision-makers from the very beginning. Staff implement it and staff can’t do the implementation until the funder comes to the table and tells us what we have.”