The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board is hoping to tap a new provincial funding initiative by partnering with the French public board on a new high school south of the Lincoln Alexander Parkway.
Trustees on Monday approved the surprise joint venture as the board’s top priority of eight capital projects to be submitted to the Ministry of Education by the end of this month.
Senior facilities officer Dan Del Bianco said the proposal tries to take advantage of a new ministry funding initiative announced on July 31 that will give first consideration to joint-use schools.
He said details of how the partnership will work remain to be determined, but the plan calls for “two separate entities” that would share some facilities as well as infrastructure like heating and cooling systems.
The English board school would accommodate between 1,000 and 1,250 students, while the French school would hold 400 to 500 students in grades 7 to 12.
“It’s economies of scale. We’re trying to build something better together than each of us could build on our own and we would share a number of components,” Del Bianco said.
“The extent to which we would share those components, however, we’re still very early in the planning process, but in my experience elsewhere you’re looking at the gymnasium, the library or a common hallway.”
Del Bianco said the board hopes to get $31.8 million in provincial funding for the project, the same amount it received earlier this year for a new high school in the city’s north end.
Although the board is still in the midst of buying a site for the new Mountain school, it has identified Shermal Estates, a stretch of land byUpper Sherman Avenue and Rymal Road, as the “approximate location.”
Board chair Tim Simmons said he believes the board has a good chance of getting ministry funding for the school, which will replace Hill Park, Barton and Mountain.
Trustees have previously approved a plan to finance the school, scheduled to open in September 2016, through the sale of surplus sites if the province doesn’t come through.
“We have a huge laundry list of facility repairs and if we can get an extra $30 million or so to help us from the ministry, we’d be fools to turn a blind eye to that,” Simmons said of the joint venture.
“I think it shows the innovation the board is looking for with our new facilities and with our program strategies.”
West Mountain trustee Wes Hicks said he hopes the board will explore the possibility of also partnering with the city on a swimming pool at the new Mountain school despite the recent failure of a similar effort at Scott Park.
“We can’t give up on the partnership with the city,” he said. “We’ve got to keep trying.”
Claire Francoeur, communications director for Conseil scolaire Viamonde, said the new French school would replace École secondaire Georges-P.-Vanier, located near Coronation Park in Westdale.
She said the French board has similar partnerships with public and Catholic boards elsewhere.
“We’ve been looking for years to relocate the school,” Francoeur said of Vanier. “We’re not new in partnerships and we always say we’re ready to share and establish partnerships with other school boards and the community.”
The wish list the public board will submit to the ministry also seeks $16 million for its No. 2 priority project, renovations and additions to Highland Secondary School in Dundas to make way for the closure of Parkside.
New additions to this year’s list include upgrades to Sherwood, Ancaster and Westmount high schools, all rated as being in poor condition in a long-term facilities master plan approved earlier this year.
– with files from Gord Bowes