By Gord Bowes, News staff
Three more Mountain public elementary schools and a Catholic one could be closed over the next 15 years due to declining enrolment.
In the same period, a new Catholic elementary school could be built in Mount Hope to accommodate children coming from new subdivisions south of the Lincoln Alexander Parkway.
That’s what enrolment projections for the next decade and a half indicate, according to consultants’ reports received this year by Hamilton’s public and Catholic school boards.
Timelines and requirements may change, but this is what the boards are looking at right now.
“If any of this development doesn’t happen, then obviously the numbers change,” says Pat Daly, chair of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board.
In the Catholic system, an addition to overcrowded St. Thérèse of Lisieux and the new school in Mount Hope at some point in the next decade and a half will deal with rising enrolment south of the Linc, said Daly.
North of the Linc, he said, it is “highly unlikely” that any west Mountain schools will be closed, but a review of east Mountain Catholic elementary facilities could happen in five to 10 years.
The board is also hoping to get funding from the province to replace Sts. Peter and Paul elementary school, which opened in 1951, with a larger school in the next few years.
St. Thomas More will continue to operate with over 1,800 students through the 2028–2029 school year, the report predicts, while there will be a drop of about 400 students from St. Jean de Brebeuf.
However, down the road in Upper Stoney Creek, significant growth within the catchment area of Bishop Ryan, which includes Binbrook, may result in a new high school being needed by 2027.
The public school board could close three elementary schools in the next five years.
On the west Mountain, the last closure was Seneca in 2007. Students were split between Chedoke and Gordon Price, making both JK-8 schools, noted Wes Hicks, the longtime trustee for the area.
Hicks said more changes will follow a review coming up in 2016.
“Our JK-8 schools are located very well to serve the whole of Ward 8,” he said. “Having said that, is there some consolidation of junior and middle schools? That will be up to the public to decide.”
Hicks says he doesn’t put a lot of stock in predictions made today regarding enrolment in 2029.
“There are too many variables, too many things that can change,” he said.
On the east Mountain, closure reviews are planned for 2015 (Lawfield, Lisgar and Richard Beasley) and 2018 (C.B. Stirling, Lincoln Alexander and Templemead).
Declining enrolment in older areas of the ward will be offset by an increase in students from new developments by 2028, according to the report, but over the next several years many schools will be operating under capacity.
No more closures are scheduled on the central Mountain, where trustees voted in June to shutter three schools — Cardinal Heights, Eastmount Park and Linden Park — in June 2015.
The public board’s report suggests its remaining four high schools — Henderson, MacNab, Sherwood and Westmount — will serve its needs through 2028.
Henderson, which the public school board says will open in September 2016, is being designed for expansion, said Daniel Del Bianco, senior facilities officer with the board.
“The plans for all new high schools will always include an addition, should the need arise,” he said. “It will be included on the site plan for the school.”
The enrolment forecasts were included in studies presented to the boards as they formulated their revised education development charges bylaws. The numbers are put together to give school boards an idea of where growth will be and where they should be acquiring land — and when — in order to know how to levy charges on new homes.
“It only identifies when a site should be acquired and that can fluctuate — it can be sooner, it can be later, depending on how quickly development itself comes online,” said Del Bianco. “It’s meant as a high-level analysis,” he said, and looks more at geographic areas than at individual schools.”
The plight of Hamilton boards is not unique, said Del Bianco. Most boards around the GTA face the same problem of declining enrolment in older areas but an explosion of new homes in other areas.
“They will all be to different extremes, but they all are experiencing it.”
Five years from now, as the boards revisit those bylaws, new studies will be presented.
OPEN AND SHUT: Overview
STONEY CREEK/BINBROOK: Development in Binbrook, Upper Stoney Creek putting pressure on school boards