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Photo by Richard Leitner

Photo by Richard Leitner

Queendale parent Mike Patchett has come up with a plan that would move Linden Park into part of Hill Park Secondary School and allow most students on the central Mountain to walk to their elementary school.

Mountain ARC options don’t stray far from staff closure plan

Queensdale parent makes pitch to turn Hill Park into JK-8 school

By Richard Leitner, News Staff

Linden Park Elementary School remains on the chopping block under all three options being offered as alternatives to a staff proposal to close the Vickers Road school and up to three others on the central Mountain.

The alternative options, presented at a Tuesday public meeting, mostly tweak the staff plan, with two of the three also proposing to shutter Queensdale and Eastmount Park.

One of the latter options would add George L. Armstrong to the closure list, but build a new kindergarten to Grade 8 school there.

School superintendent Michael Prendergast, non-voting chair of the accommodation review committee, said the public is still invited to submit other ideas on how to cut surplus spaces at the eight central Mountain schools covered by the closure study.

The committee trimmed an initial 15 alternative options to eight before voting to determine the final three that would be presented at the public meeting, held at Hill Park Secondary School.

“I think the (ARC) working group has been working really hard to consider the criteria and to ensure that all the communities are being represented,” Prendergast said.

“Some (options) are really similar, but they also recognize that they’re not at the end of the process.”

The committee will hold one last public meeting on Jan. 21 before submitting a final recommendation to trustees.

It next meets on Jan. 14 to consider the public’s response to the three options and assess a new option by a Queensdale parent that proposes to convert Hill Park into an elementary school for students at adjacent Linden Park.

Mike Patchett, who outlined his plan at last week’s working group meeting, said he spent three to four hours every night for three weeks to come up with a solution that gives every neighbourhood a school within walking distance and cuts 681 surplus pupil spaces.

His option would close Armstrong, Ridgemount and Pauline Johnson, the latter of which would also be shuttered by the staff plan.

Linden Park would move into Hill Park, which would be “right-sized” by removing a wing and using that space as a playground. It would become a JK to Grade 8 school, taking Grade 7 and 8 students from Queensdale, Eastmount Park, Ridgemount and Cardinal Heights.

If Hill Park can’t be used, Linden Park would be upgraded or rebuilt as a middle school instead.

The option also calls for a new JK-8 school south of the Lincoln Alexander Parkway– potentially on board-owned land by Jerome Park – for 425 students, including 395 in the area who presently go to Pauline Johnson and Ridgemount.

Cardinal Heights would meanwhile become a JK-5 school, replacing adjacent Pauline Johnson, which would close, and taking Ridgemount students who live north of the Linc. Students north of the Linc in Grades 6 to 8 at Ridgemount and Cardinal Heights would shift to Linden Park.

Patchett said he believes his option has several selling points, including that it maintains a school by the Hill Park recreation centre and provides a school south of the Linc that can accommodate future growth.

It also avoids disruptions from construction because it doesn’t require any renovations other than at Hill Park, which could be done while students remain at Linden Park, he said.

“Honestly, it doesn’t affect my kids at all. My kids are currently at Queensdale, but we’re walking distance to Queensdale, Armstrong and Hill Park,” he said.

“If Queensdale closes it’d be a shame. It’s a beautiful little school, I love the school, but my kids are in walking distance of Armstrong, too.”

Patchett said he’ll leave it to board officials to cost his proposal. The committee has yet to be provided a financial breakdown on the staff option or the three alternatives presented to the public this week.

Ellen Warling, manager of planning and accommodation, said it would have been onerous to price all of the initial 15 options, and costs for the three alternatives and staff plan will be provided at the committee’s Jan. 14 meeting.

The lack of costing on the options didn’t sit well with Queensdale parent Stefanie Shiels, who said concurrent accommodation reviews in east Hamilton and Glanbrook have been given such information, including on busing costs.

She said some of the central Mountain options involve adding multiple classrooms and gyms, but “nobody’s told anybody what these things cost.”

“My concern is they’re not being given the information they need to make the right decisions or appropriate decisions,” said Shiels, one of several Queensdale parents who attended the working group meeting as an observer

“If the public stands up and says, ‘How much is Option 3 going to cost?’ they’re not going to have the answer. I think that’s a failing of the process.”

Options at a glance

The following three plans received the most committee support among 15 alternative options submitted by the public: 

Option 6

Close Queensdale in 2015, shifting students to G.L. Armstrong

Close Eastmount Park in 2015. Students north of Queensdale Avenue go to Armstrong; those south go to Franklin Road

Close Linden Park in 2015. Students east of Upper Wellington Street go to Pauline Johnson; those to the west shift to Ridgemount

Cardinal Heights remains middle school for Pauline Johnson and Ridgemount

Option 7

Close Eastmount Park in 2015, shifting students to Armstrong

Close Linden Park in 2015. Students east of Upper Wellington Street go to Franklin Road; those west shift to Queensdale, which becomes a JK-8 school

Cardinal Heights remains middle school for Pauline Johnson and Ridgemount

Option 11

Close Queensdale, Eastmount Park and Armstrong; build a new K-8 school at Armstrong

Close Linden Park, shifting students to Franklin Road and Ridgemount; the latter gets an addition to become a K-8 school

Close either Pauline Johnson or Cardinal Heights and retrofit remaining school for JK-8

Staff option

Close Queensdale and Eastmount Park in June 2014. Students shift to Armstrong or Franklin Road, which will both be renovated for full-day kindergarten.

Close Linden Park in June 2014. Students go to Pauline Johnson or Ridgemount; latter to add two full-day kindergarten rooms and six classrooms by September 2016.

Pauline Johnson becomes JK-3 school and Cardinal Heights a grades 4 to 8 school, in September 2014. If the board gets funding, a new JK-8 school on site for 550 students closes both.

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