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School overcrowding relief on way for Meadowlands

Land in hand, new elementary digs slated to open in 2015-16

By Richard Leitner, News Staff

Relief for Ancaster Meadow Elementary School’s crowded quarters is on the way with word that Queen’s Park will pay for a second school in the area.

The new school is one of two Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board projects to hit the funding jackpot in an annual, province-wide capital allocation, the other being a new high school on the southeast Mountain.

“It’s fantastic,” said Alex Johnstone, the area’s trustee, noting Ancaster Meadow has 300 more students than its 550 capacity. Built in 2005, theKitty Murray Laneschool has 11 portables, she added.

“The community is bursting at the rim and they are ready for a new school. I think everyone’s overjoyed by the news.”

An “absolutely thrilled” board chair Jessica Brennan said the Ministry of Education has yet to provide dollar amounts for either new school, but she assumes they will match business cases submitted last fall.

Trustees requested funding for an Ancaster elementary school for 500 to 600 students at a cost $7 million to $10 million. It’s expected to open in the 2015-16 school year.

The board has already bought a 2.5-hectare property in the Tiffany Hill neighbourhood, located on the north side of Garner Road East between Springbrook Avenue and Raymond Road. The site is next to a two-hectare city park.

Though the board is also getting money for the new south Mountain high school, estimated at $31.8 million, it came up empty on six other priority capital requests submitted to the ministry last October.

They include $14 million to upgrade Ancaster High School, identified as being in poor shape, and $16 million to expand Highland– to be renamed Dundas Valley Secondary – to accommodate students from Parkside after it closes in June 2015.

But Brennan said funding for the new schools frees up dollars to address these and other projects.

“It’s all very, very good news,” she said. “It may allow us to do renovations on the remaining secondary schools and elementary schools that are not closing and that aren’t getting additions built, but that need new elements.”

The new high school will replace Barton and Hill Park, and is slated for a 10.4-hectare property in Shermal Estates, located south of Rymal Road near the corner of Upper Sherman Avenue.

The board had proposed to partner there with the French public board, which hoped to build an adjoining school for 500 students in grades 7 to 12, but the province is only providing money for a stand-alone English high school.

Brennan said although the school-closure process has been difficult for many, she’s encouraged to see the province once again reward her board for making tough decisions to cut empty seats.

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

It also received $5.4 million for a 10-classroom addition at Saltfleet District Secondary School in upperStoney Creek, which is also in the midst of a housing boom.

“In the community there are people very excited about this kind of revitalization and rationalization and improvement on programming for students,” Brennan said.

“There are others who have legitimate concerns about their individual neighbourhood community school that’s been there for a long time and (ask), is this really the best way to respond to the funding crunch,” she said.

“To be able to receive funding from the government that allows us to move forward with the second half of that decision, of building new schools, I think is wonderful for us all.”

The funding comes as trustees received the final three of four elementary accommodation review reports on Monday, starting a 60-day “cooling off” period to allow the public to digest and respond to recommendations by staff and voluntary committees.

Up to 11 elementary schools across the city could be shuttered under the staff proposals, including three on the Mountain, four in the lower east end, three in West Flamborough and Bell-Stone in Binbrook.

But three existing schools would also be replaced with new ones, including Spencer Valley and Beverly Central.

Trustees will hear formal public delegations on the recommendations in April and early May, and hope to reach a final decision on June 16.

But Brennan said trustees could choose to extend that timeline based on public feedback.

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