Eastmount Park, Linden Park and Queensdale could be shuttered in June
By Gord Bowes, News staff
Carrie Ashworth’s children live a short walk from Eastmount Park elementary school.
Next September, however, there’s a very good chance they will be bused to Franklin Road, more than twice as far away.
Ashworth said she had heard about the possibility of Eastmount being shuttered, but it was driven home earlier this month when public school board staff said it and two other central Mountain elementary schools should be closed in June.
She said it would be a shame for students at the East 26th Street school to be forced into another school.
“I like the sense of community at Eastmount and the fact everybody can walk to school,” said Ashworth, who has one child in junior kindergarten and another in Grade 2.
“I like the fact that if they want to go play with their friends, that they’re just around the corner, that the park’s right there, that there’s a huge amount of green space.”
The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board is looking to pare 5,000 excess elementary school spaces across its system over the next five years.
On the central Mountain, with eight schools that currently feed Hill Park high school, the board has 825 extra seats it needs to shed.
Staff suggest Eastmount be closed along with Queensdale and Linden Park; a final decision will be made by trustees in the new years.
Emily Coe was at last week’s public meeting on the closures. She has a son in junior kindergarten at Linden Park, a school she also attended as a child.
She said she’s worried that the planned closure of Hill Park high school — its fate was decided in May 2012 — has sealed Linden Park’s fate, as the two buildings share some basic systems such as heating.
“We are literally two blocks away, it’s wonderful the school is so close,” said Coe. “That’s one of the things we love.”
Earlier this month, a letter went home to parents at the school notifying them of the staff recommendation which would result in their children attending Pauline Johnston or Cardinal Heights starting next September.
Queensdale parent Shawna McNicol said she doesn’t understand why that school received about $5 million worth of renovations in 2008 only to be closed less than six years later.
“The floors sparkle like they’re brand new,” said McNicol. “The school is in unbelievable shape. I don’t know how they can invest that money and then turn around and, ‘Oh well,’ ”
“That’s why we’re all questioning the data that they’re presenting to us,” added parent Dawn Danko.
She said the system which rates Queensdale as in the worst condition of all the schools in the review “cannot be accurate.”
It’s also odd, said Danko, that the board held off giving the school the new full-day kindergarten program.
“It’s very suspect that we have the pre-existing facilities for full-day kindergarten and it’s last on the list,” said Danko. “They’re renovating Ridgemount right now for full-day kindergarten and they could have put it at our school.”
Eastmount Park and Linden Park also do not have full-day kindergarten, which the province requires in all schools by the 2014-15 academic year.
“Our community is really rallying behind us and is very concerned about it,” said Danko.
“You can see that tonight,” said McNicol after the Oct. 8 public meeting in which Queensdale supporters wore red. “At the next meeting, we’re hoping to have even more people because we need to show how passionate the families are for their school.”
Amber Bourque, the school council chair at G.L. Armstrong, said while she believes her school would be a great spot for Queensdale and Eastmount students, the staff recommendation isn’t carved in stone and each school can make a case for staying open.
“This is just one option that was brought to us,” she said. “There are endless options available.”
Three other closure reviews are underway in other parts of the city.
The Mountain is scheduled for three more rounds of closures in the next few years. A review for the 2014-15 year will include Lawfield, Lisgar and Richard Beasley on the east Mountain. The next year nine schools on the west Mountain will go under the microscope: Buchanan Park, Chedoke, Gordon Price, Holbrook, James Macdonald, Mountview, R.A. Riddell, Westview and Westwood.
A study in 2016-17 will review another three schools on the east Mountain, C.B. Stirling, Lincoln Alexander and Templemead.
with files from Richard Leitner