Greensville, Spencer Valley and two west Flamborough schools are slated to be among the first ones undergo a closure review as part of a strategy to try to cut the 5,000 empty classroom seats at 95 public elementary schools in Hamilton.
The study is one of 14 accommodation reviews, or ARCs, recommended over the next five years by Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board staff, a process that will sweep in Dundas and Ancaster schools.
In a presentation to trustees, Ellen Warling, manager of planning and accommodation, said the strategy is flexible because provincial policies can affect school use.
“We know that board priorities can change due to a variety of influences,” she said, citing the introduction of smaller primary class sizes and junior kindergarten as examples.
According to a recent Long Term Facilities Master Plan, Greensville, Spencer Valley and the two other schools – Dr. John Seaton and Beverly Central – have 265 empty seats between them, about the equivalent of the capacity at Spencer Valley.
Proposed future ARCs will address six schools in Ancaster in 2015-16 and four in Dundas the following year.
The strategy calls for the purchase of land for a new Meadowlands elementary school this year and then the subsequent ARC covering Ancaster Meadow, Ancaster Senior, C.H. Bray, Fessenden, Queen’s Rangers and Rousseau.
While enrolment varies widely, the schools have about 150 more students than their combined capacity, with Ancaster Meadow and C.H. Bray the most overcrowded and Queen’s Rangers in Copetown having the most empty seats.
Dundana, Dundas Central, Sir William Osler and Yorkview are slated for a review in 2016-17. They have a combined 175 empty seats, with Yorkview’s proportion the highest at 24 per cent.
Trustees have yet to discuss or approve the 14 ARCs because they ran out of time at their Feb. 11 meeting, dominated by debate over the funding of six projects stemming from previous closure studies – including a $15-million plan to renovate, rather than rebuild, Highland Secondary School to make way for the closure of Parkside in 2014.
The Long Term Facilities Master Plan notes that a school’s inclusion in an ARC doesn’t necessarily mean it’s destined to close.
“Having large groups of schools in a review allows for boundary changes and other accommodation solutions to occur within the terms of reference of the accommodation review,” it states.