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Parents ‘thrilled’ by long-awaited Saltfleet expansion

Catholic board also gets cash for Winona school

By Richard Leitner, News Staff

It’s taken six years of lobbying, petitions and parent meetings, but Saltfleet District High School is finally going to get its long-awaited expansion.

“We’re thrilled,” said school council co-chair Susan Chapman of last week’s announcement that the Ministry of Education will provide $5.4 million toward the project.

“We thought it was going to happen a long time ago, but better late than never,” she said. “We got the funding; that’s the first piece. I’m very eager to see what the actual plans look like.”

Built in 1996, Saltfleet has a capacity of 976 students but was already overcrowded when it opened its doors and now has a dozen portable classrooms. As of the end of October, the school had 1,215 students.

“It’s pretty tight in there,” Chapman said. “That’s why they had to go to a double lunch hour several years ago because you couldn’t have all those students in one lunch hour. It’s just impossible to move through the hallways.”

Stoney Creek trustee Robert Barlow called the funding news “long overdue” and said he’s not yet sure if the wing will have the 500 seats initially planned because the board had sought $6.7 million from the ministry.

“At the end of the day, maybe we’ll only be able to put 420 seats,” he said, suggesting costs will be less than a typical expansion because Saltfleet was designed to add a wing. “It’s what we can afford to do, as best we can, to make it happen.”

The addition is one of was one of three Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board projects that will receive a total of $40.7 million in provincial cash as part of $711 million in capital funding announced on Jan. 17.

Hamilton’s Catholic board also got some good news, receiving $9.8 million for a new elementary school to be built on Barton Street in Winona across from Winona Park – albeit less than the $12 million requested.

Board chair Pat Daly said the funding will allow for construction of a 500-seat school, 100 fewer than hoped.

“That doesn’t take away from our appreciation,” he said. “We’re pleased that we got something and that we can build a school to relieve the overcrowding at Immaculate Heart of Mary.”

The public board will meanwhile get $31.8 million for a new high school in the lower city to replace Delta, Parkview and Sir John A. Macdonald, as well as $3.5 million to upgrade Dalewood Middle School in Westdale as part of a plan to close Prince Philip Elementary School.

Board chair Tim Simmons said he’s optimistic the funding will allow a plan to open at least two new secondary schools by September 2015 to become a reality.

“We see this as a reward for doing the hard work,” he said, referring to accommodation reviews that led to a renewal plan that could close seven of 18 high schools in exchange for up to three new ones.

“This will go a long way to help us realize our dreams for modernizing the school board and creating 21st-Century learning spaces for our students.”

Simmons said the ministry has also indicated it will help fund the purchase of land for a new $25-million Mountain high school south of the Lincoln Alexander Parkway that will replace Barton, Hill Park and Mountain secondary schools.

He said staff will now prepare business cases for the Mountain school as well as a plan to either expand or rebuild Highland Secondary School in Dundas so it can accommodate students from Parkside, set to close in June 2015.

Those business plans, which require both trustee and ministry approval, will mostly rely on the sale of surplus school properties to fund the projects, he said, noting the board doesn’t have the OK for a $25-million Dundas high school.

Renovating and expanding Highland is expected to cost about $15 million.

“Staff’s got to crunch the numbers and look at what properties we might go to 444 with,” Simmons said, referring to the regulation governing the sale of surplus land. “Then they’ll be able to address whether it’s realistic for a new school.”

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