A new elementary school in the Ancaster Meadowlands has jumped up three spots and now sits fourth on the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board’s wish list for provincial funding.
Trustees on Monday approved eight priority projects for this year’s capital request to the Ministry of Education, including upgrades to address $14 million in deferred maintenance at Ancaster High School, seventh on the list.
The top priority is funding for a new high school in the area of Upper Sherman Avenue and Rymal Road East, a plan now including a partnership with the French public board for an adjoining school for up to 500 students in grades 7 to 12.
Senior facilities officer Dan Del Bianco said the priority projects partly reflect two new criteria this year: partnerships with co-terminus boards, to be given primary consideration, and renewal needs.
The latter applies to Ancaster High, identified as being in “poor” condition in the board’s long-term facilities master plan.
The new Meadowland school is meanwhile one of three projects submitted under the “accommodation pressures” category.
The board has already purchased a 2.5-hectare property for the school in the Tiffany Hill neighbourhood, located on the north side of Garner Road East betweenS pringbrook Avenue and Raymond Road. The site sits next to a two-hectare city park.
Del Bianco said the board is seeking funding for a school of 500 to 600 students, one expected to cost $7 million to $10 million.
In its submission to the ministry, the board notes the Meadowlands’ existing elementary school, Ancaster Meadow, already has nine portable classrooms and new homes continue to be built in the area.
“We believe there’s quite a strong business case,” Del Bianco said. “Accommodation pressures are typically what the ministry funds first and foremost because you need to have spaces to put students in.”
While new schools must be completed by the 2016-17 school year to qualify for funding, Del Bianco said the Meadowlands school can open sooner. It’s expected to take about a year to build.
The board initially hoped to have the school open next September, when Ancaster Meadow is set to introduce all-day kindergarten and projected to exceed an 850-student washroom limit.
Del Bianco said the board could add washrooms, but a new school makes more sense, given the land is already in hand and more residential growth is on the way.
“That’s ultimately what these business cases (for funding) have to reflect,” he said. “It’s the long-term, sustainable need.”
Trustees lifted an enrolment cap of 750 at Ancaster Meadow last fall to accommodate growth in the area, expected to add more than 800 homes just from surveys already underway.
Back then, the school had 756 students – 178 above capacity – and seven portables.
Overflow students in the Meadowlands had been directed to Rousseau and Ancaster Senior in September 2010, but the introduction of all-day kindergarten at Rousseau pushed its enrolment to near-capacity, prompting the lifting of the 750 cap.
The three schools, along with C.H. Bray, Fessenden and Queen’s Rangers, are slated for an accommodation review in 2015, part of an overall effort to cut 5,000 surplus pupil spaces at 80 of the board’s 95 elementary schools.
While enrolment varies widely, the Ancaster schools have about 150 more students than their combined capacity, with Ancaster Meadow and C.H. Bray the most overcrowded and Queen’s Rangers in Copetown having the fewest students at 131, well shy of a 190 capacity.