Decision to await outcome of expropriation hearing
The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board is keeping Scott Park alive as a potential site for a new, five-storey high school to replace Delta, Parkview and Sir John A. Macdonald.
After nearly four hours of deliberations, trustees voted 9-1 on Monday to put off any decision on the new school’s location until after an Oct. 1 hearing on the board’s notice of intent to expropriate the former site of Scott Park Secondary School.
The move came after trustees reversed an earlier decision to build a three-storey school at the existing site of Parkview and King George schools on Balsam Avenue, with opponents arguing the property is too small.
The Parkview site – the so-called Plan B after the city spurned a partnership at Scott Park, where it plans to build a $17-million recreation centre – had been approved by a 6-5 vote at the board’s Sept. 17 standing committee meeting.
But on Monday, it fell by a 6-4 margin, with Shirley Glauser, recently appointed as Stoney Creek trustee to fill the vacancy left by Robert Barlow’s sudden death in May, switching sides to defeat the plan.
Another supporter, Alex Johnstone, trustee for wards 11 and 12, tried to participate by phone from vacation in Cuba but didn’t vote after opponents objected that she clearly couldn’t hear the debate via a hand-held cell phone at the front of the room.
Board chair Tim Simmons, who continued to push the Parkview site for the new school, acknowledged trustees are split on how to proceed on the school, which is getting $31.8 from the province based on a promised opening date of September 2016.
He said trustees will have a better idea of where the board stands after the Oct. 1 expropriation hearing. The board’s next scheduled meeting is Oct. 28, but trustees could call a special meeting earlier if necessary.
“If we can make headway with the Scott Park site, then there will be a clearer understanding if that’s a road better taken,” said Simmons, who is the Ward 3 area’s trustee.
“We haven’t seen this division on this board for a number of years and it shows, I think, the emotional and intellectual stake that everybody has in doing what’s right for our students.”
According to staff, building demolition at either site would cost about $2 million. At 1.5 acres, the Scott Park site would require a five-storey high school but be adjacent to the new recreation centre and park. It would have no on-site parking.
The Parkview site would allow for a three-storey high school but have nearly no green space because it would also include about 180 parking spaces, requiring students to use other fields, including at Scott Park and the new Pan Am stadium.
The plan could face another hurdle if city council designates King George school – currently used by administrative staff – as a heritage building, a move that could restrict the board’s ability to demolish or alter it.
But some trustees said they will never support building there regardless.
“Trustees have mentioned that this school will be in competition with other schools from the separate school board. Well, I can’t recall a high school at the separate school board that doesn’t have a playing field on their site,” west Mountain trustee Wes Hicks said.
“When we get into comparing facilities, this does not do justice to this board, so there isn’t any way that I can support a high school on 3.6 acres, now or ever.”
But Judith Bishop, trustee for wards 1 and 2, said the Parkview site will serve students well and further delays could jeopardize funding for the new school.
“We’ve heard that the school on this (Parkview) site will be a three-storey school. I don’t think any of us have the desire to have a five-storey school,” she said.
“It will be linked to the new swimming pool, there’s going to be a new soccer field just around the corner, there’s the new football field just over the way. This is not going to be a school that’s going to be isolated from resources and support.”