Silence leading to rumors about Hill Park, says Duvall
By Gord Bowes, News staff
With little public information about the proposed new Mountain high school, rumours are starting to spread, said central Mountain councillor Scott Duvall.
From problems obtaining land for the new school to the early closure of Hill Park, people are wondering what exactly is going on, said Duvall.
“The only thing they’ve heard is (Hill Park is) closing and there’s a school going to be built,” he said. “That’s all they’re hearing.”
After a 16-month closure review, the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board decided in May 2012 it would close Barton, Hill Park and Mountain secondary schools in June 2015. Boundaries would be realigned and some students would be walking into a new high school on the south Mountain that fall.
Earlier this year, however, the new school opening was pushed back to 2016.
The board is believed to have been in negotiations with a developer for land west of Miles Road for over a year. In a report to the board in May, Shermal Estates, a block of undeveloped land south of the corner of Upper Sherman Avenue and Rymal Road, was identified as the site for the new school.
The deal involves a land swap for the Jerome parcel the board has off Upper Wellington south of the Lincoln Alexander Parkway. The Jerome land was declared surplus in May.
Trustees received a report Monday night which included more information about Shermal Estate, but it was not discussed publicly.
In the report, it is noted the 16-acre site for a 1,400-seat school would cost about $550,000 per acre for a total cost of $8.8 million, plus $892,800 in site preparation costs. A 2014 acquisition date is proposed.
Public school trustees have been busy in recent weeks negotiating with the city for a school at Scott Park to replace Delta, Parkview and Sir John A. Macdonald. Construction on that school has to begin next summer in order to open for the 2016-17 school year.
“It looks like they’ve been concentrating on what’s going to happen downtown,” said Duvall.
If construction on the Mountain high school also has to begin next summer to meet the same timeline, the board is cutting it close, he said. If the land it is eyeing needs to be rezoned to allow the school, there’s a public process involved that could hold things up.
That ties in with the other rumour floating around: that Hill Park will close next year and students will be sent to Barton while waiting for the new school to open.
Duvall said it’s his understanding that students who may live near Hill Park would not be getting any compensation for having to travel to Barton.
“They’re going to be putting all the financial burden on lower income families to get their kids to school,” he said. “If you have two kids in high school, that’s $160 a month. That’s a big hit on a family’s income.”
East Mountain trustee Laura Peddle said the early Hill Park closure could be one of the options staff is bringing to trustees next month as it deals with declining enrolment there and at Barton until the new school opens.
That would involve moving up the implementation of new school boundaries and programming changes.
But Peddle said it wasn’t the same as students moving schools twice. Some would move to Barton and then that entire student body would move to the new high school.
“You’re not disrupting them, you’re just changing the building,” she said.