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New Mountain high school opening pushed back a year

By Richard Leitner, News Staff

A new public high school to be built south of the Lincoln Alexander Parkway is now set to open in September 2016, a year later than originally scheduled.

A funding strategy approved by Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board trustees after nearly three hours of debate on Monday bases the projection on acquiring a site for the $27.4-million school by spring of next year.

The plan will close Barton, Hill Park and Mountain secondary schools, and use the proceeds from their sale to help pay for the new school, which came up empty on a request for provincial funding.

East Mountain trustee Laura Peddle said the extra year should allow for better program and transition planning for students whose schools are closing.

She said the location of the new school remains “a work in progress,” but she’s confident everything will fall into place to meet the new timeline.

“It’s definitely coming, so that’s good news,” Peddle said. “We’re clear where all the money is coming from.”

The 1,000-student school is one of six projects identified by the strategy that will cost an estimated $100.9 million, about half of which will come from Ministry of Education capital and school-repair grants.

The ministry last month announced it will provide $31.8 million for a new high school in the lower city to replace Delta, Parkview and Sir John A. Macdonald – one the board hopes will be built near the new Pan Am stadium.

A $5.4-million addition to Saltfleet District in upper Stoney Creek will get full provincial funding, while $8.5 million in upgrades to G.R. Allan elementary school in Westdale will get $3.8 million.

The latter renovations are part of a plan to close Prince Philip elementary and give Dalewood middle school a $10.3-million facelift, none of which is being funded by the province.

The other major project is a $15-million expansion at Highland Secondary School to accommodate students from Parkside, scheduled to close in June 2014.

The board had unsuccessfully applied for provincial funding to rebuild Highland at an estimated cost of $25 million and the expansion is its Plan B.

Several trustees, including Peddle, questioned the plan to spend nearly $19 million upgrading G.R. Allan and Dalewood, losing a 6-5 vote to refer the renovations back to staff.

Flamborough trustee Karen Turkstra called it “fiscally irresponsible” to spend more on the Westdale schools than on Highland when the latter’s per-student facility and programming costs will be higher.

“We could build two new JK to 8 schools in that (Westdale) area and spend less money,” she said. “I cannot support such an inequitable distribution of finite, precious funds.”

But board chair Tim Simmons said the renovations are part of the business case for ministry funding and will address longstanding repair needs all at once, rather than doing them piecemeal, which will cost more in the long run.

“The officials know what they’re doing to spend money wisely,” he said of board facility staff. “They know how to renovate old buildings. They’ve been doing it for a long time.”

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