Peddle backs plan despite discomfort with Mountain transition
A renamed Barton Secondary will become a holding school next fall for students who will then move to a new high school south of the Lincoln Alexander Parkway once it opens.
Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board trustees on Monday approved a transition plan that will close Hill Park and Barton in its current incarnation at the end of June, two years earlier than originally scheduled.
Hill Park students will have a choice of going to Barton, set to begin a renaming process next month, or their home school under new catchment boundaries that were to take effect in September 2016, when the new school is slated to open.
Mountain Secondary will meanwhile now remain open until June 2017 – a year later than initially planned – to allow existing students to graduate there.
Education director John Malloy said moving up the Barton and Hill Park closure dates will address declining enrolment at both schools that has hampered the ability to offer a diversity of course options.
He said the holding school will have enough students to double those course offerings and Barton was chosen because most students live closer to it than Hill Park.
Malloy said the overall goal is to minimize the disruption when students move to the new school, likening the situation to the Catholic board’s relocation of Bishop Ryan high school to Glanbrook, which will see teachers and students move en masse.
The new Mountain school will be located in Shermal Estates, a stretch of land by Upper Sherman Avenue and Rymal Road.
“We will already have created the new name, the team colours, all that stuff will be sorted out and simply that (holding) school will move to the new building,” Malloy said.
East Mountain trustee Laura Peddle said she supports the transition plan even though she’s “very uncomfortable” with the Mountain Secondary component.
The Caledon Avenue school won’t accept any new students, other than those transferring from Parkview in the lower city as part of a plan to build a new high school there.
“If we could delay a year I’d be happier with that – let one more year of kids in – but I’m not so sure there’s the will for that,” Peddle said. “I just don’t have the confidence that we’re ready,” she said.
“I’ve had teachers call me and they were still fighting the (overall closure) decision in their heads, so how could they possibly be ready for this?”
Judith Bishop, trustee for wards 1 and 2, said the transition plan provides students choice, flexibility and badly needed clarity “on who can go where.”
“I think to have held off longer would not have been good for students,” she said.
Only trustee Lillian Orban opposed the plan, arguing her Ward 7 has been “completely devastated” by the pending closure of Hill Park and boundary changes that will require most students to be bused.
She also objected that only three middle of her schools will feed the new Mountain school.
“It’s a sorry day for me when three of my schools in Ward 7…” Orban said before becoming overcome with emotion.
The plan will see the Art Smart program for performing arts, presently offered at Hill Park, shift to Sir Allan MacNab next fall.