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New Saltfleet District wing set to open in fall 2014

By Richard Leitner, News Staff

A 10-room addition to Saltfleet District High School is expected to be completed by the fall of next year.

A funding strategy approved by Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board trustees after nearly three hours of debate on Monday will pay for the long-awaited expansion with a $5.4-million grant announced by the Ministry of Education last month.

The new wing is one of six projects identified by the strategy, which will cost an estimated $100.9 million, about half of it to come from provincial capital and school-repair grants.

“This is our vision to right-size our board, to reinvent our board,” chair Tim Simmons said. “This sets the foundation to fix up all of our schools and to maintain all of our schools.”

The ministry is providing $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.

Along with the $5.4 million for Saltfleet, the board is also getting $3.8 million in grants toward $8.5 million in upgrades to G.R. Allan elementary school in Westdale.

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.

Two other major projects emanating from a recent high school closure review remain unfunded.

One will see the board build a new $27.4-million high school south of the Lincoln Alexander Parkway, one now set to open in the fall of 2016, a year later than originally scheduled.

The plan will close Barton, Hill Park and Mountain secondary schools, and use the proceeds from their sale to help pay for the 1,000-student school, which came up empty on a request for provincial funding.

The other project is a $15-million expansion at Highland Secondary School to accommodate students from Parkside, scheduled to close in June 2015.

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 questioned spending nearly $19 million to upgrade 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 allocate more money to the Westdale schools than to 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 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 would 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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