City and public board unite on closed school sites

News May 21, 2015 by Richard Leitner Hamilton Mountain News

The city and Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board are promising to work together to try to keep closed schools in public hands, including by pressing Queen’s Park to change policies that get in the way.

Board chair Todd White said he and Mayor Fred Eisenberger will meet with senior staff in the coming weeks to bounce ideas around on how to overcome present restrictions on the sale of surplus school properties.

Provincial regulations require the board to first offer properties to other school boards and public agencies, including the city, and any buyer must pay fair market value.

White said the rules create a budgetary challenge for the city when school closures flood the market with properties.

The board has either closed or will close seven high schools and 10 elementary schools as a result of recent accommodation reviews, and plans several more elementary school closure studies in coming years to cut surplus spaces from falling enrolment.

“There could be ways to plan in advance, so if they want a property the immediate finances are not a barrier,” White said, declining to elaborate on some “creative ideas” he plans to share with the mayor and senior staff.

“It would be unfair to put them on the spot and react to something I haven’t pitched to them yet.”

Eisenberger agreed the city and board need to work together, which he said should include pushing the province to ease the property-sale rules.

Requiring the city to pay market value leads to complaints that taxpayers are paying for the same property twice, he said during discussion of the issue at a meeting of city and board officials at the Education Centre last week.

“This issue is not going to go away. It’s going to be here, it’s going to be all across the province, and it’s integral to neighbourhoods,” Eisenberger said.

“Understanding that schools are the hub and they are fairly central to what happens in communities, how do we reflect that, whether there’s a school there or not?”

West Mountain trustee Wes Hicks said he believes the province’s push for schools to become community hubs should help arguments to retain public ownership of properties like that of Hill Park Secondary School, closed last June.

Apart from being attached to a city recreation centre, the central Mountain school has abundant playing fields and is next door to Sackville Hill Seniors Recreation Centre, he said.

“That’s a community hub,” Hicks said, suggesting the city write the Ministry of Education. “Right now, once we close schools and there’s a rec centre involved and all that, it’s all from a negative point of view.”

The agreement to work together builds on an improving relationship over the past year that has seen the city and board partner on three schools, including a new secondary one at Scott Park that will sit next to the new Bernie Morelli rec centre.

The school will also have access to neighbouring Tim Hortons Field and share an artificial-turf field at the former Dominion Glass property with the Ticats.

Dan Del Bianco, the board’s senior facilities officer, said the “fantastic, spectacular-looking” high school and rec centre benefitted from sharing the same architect.

City and public board unite on closed school sites

News May 21, 2015 by Richard Leitner Hamilton Mountain News

The city and Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board are promising to work together to try to keep closed schools in public hands, including by pressing Queen’s Park to change policies that get in the way.

Board chair Todd White said he and Mayor Fred Eisenberger will meet with senior staff in the coming weeks to bounce ideas around on how to overcome present restrictions on the sale of surplus school properties.

Provincial regulations require the board to first offer properties to other school boards and public agencies, including the city, and any buyer must pay fair market value.

White said the rules create a budgetary challenge for the city when school closures flood the market with properties.

“This issue is not going to go away. It’s going to be here, it’s going to be all across the province, and it’s integral to neighbourhoods.”

The board has either closed or will close seven high schools and 10 elementary schools as a result of recent accommodation reviews, and plans several more elementary school closure studies in coming years to cut surplus spaces from falling enrolment.

“There could be ways to plan in advance, so if they want a property the immediate finances are not a barrier,” White said, declining to elaborate on some “creative ideas” he plans to share with the mayor and senior staff.

“It would be unfair to put them on the spot and react to something I haven’t pitched to them yet.”

Eisenberger agreed the city and board need to work together, which he said should include pushing the province to ease the property-sale rules.

Requiring the city to pay market value leads to complaints that taxpayers are paying for the same property twice, he said during discussion of the issue at a meeting of city and board officials at the Education Centre last week.

“This issue is not going to go away. It’s going to be here, it’s going to be all across the province, and it’s integral to neighbourhoods,” Eisenberger said.

“Understanding that schools are the hub and they are fairly central to what happens in communities, how do we reflect that, whether there’s a school there or not?”

West Mountain trustee Wes Hicks said he believes the province’s push for schools to become community hubs should help arguments to retain public ownership of properties like that of Hill Park Secondary School, closed last June.

Apart from being attached to a city recreation centre, the central Mountain school has abundant playing fields and is next door to Sackville Hill Seniors Recreation Centre, he said.

“That’s a community hub,” Hicks said, suggesting the city write the Ministry of Education. “Right now, once we close schools and there’s a rec centre involved and all that, it’s all from a negative point of view.”

The agreement to work together builds on an improving relationship over the past year that has seen the city and board partner on three schools, including a new secondary one at Scott Park that will sit next to the new Bernie Morelli rec centre.

The school will also have access to neighbouring Tim Hortons Field and share an artificial-turf field at the former Dominion Glass property with the Ticats.

Dan Del Bianco, the board’s senior facilities officer, said the “fantastic, spectacular-looking” high school and rec centre benefitted from sharing the same architect.

City and public board unite on closed school sites

News May 21, 2015 by Richard Leitner Hamilton Mountain News

The city and Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board are promising to work together to try to keep closed schools in public hands, including by pressing Queen’s Park to change policies that get in the way.

Board chair Todd White said he and Mayor Fred Eisenberger will meet with senior staff in the coming weeks to bounce ideas around on how to overcome present restrictions on the sale of surplus school properties.

Provincial regulations require the board to first offer properties to other school boards and public agencies, including the city, and any buyer must pay fair market value.

White said the rules create a budgetary challenge for the city when school closures flood the market with properties.

“This issue is not going to go away. It’s going to be here, it’s going to be all across the province, and it’s integral to neighbourhoods.”

The board has either closed or will close seven high schools and 10 elementary schools as a result of recent accommodation reviews, and plans several more elementary school closure studies in coming years to cut surplus spaces from falling enrolment.

“There could be ways to plan in advance, so if they want a property the immediate finances are not a barrier,” White said, declining to elaborate on some “creative ideas” he plans to share with the mayor and senior staff.

“It would be unfair to put them on the spot and react to something I haven’t pitched to them yet.”

Eisenberger agreed the city and board need to work together, which he said should include pushing the province to ease the property-sale rules.

Requiring the city to pay market value leads to complaints that taxpayers are paying for the same property twice, he said during discussion of the issue at a meeting of city and board officials at the Education Centre last week.

“This issue is not going to go away. It’s going to be here, it’s going to be all across the province, and it’s integral to neighbourhoods,” Eisenberger said.

“Understanding that schools are the hub and they are fairly central to what happens in communities, how do we reflect that, whether there’s a school there or not?”

West Mountain trustee Wes Hicks said he believes the province’s push for schools to become community hubs should help arguments to retain public ownership of properties like that of Hill Park Secondary School, closed last June.

Apart from being attached to a city recreation centre, the central Mountain school has abundant playing fields and is next door to Sackville Hill Seniors Recreation Centre, he said.

“That’s a community hub,” Hicks said, suggesting the city write the Ministry of Education. “Right now, once we close schools and there’s a rec centre involved and all that, it’s all from a negative point of view.”

The agreement to work together builds on an improving relationship over the past year that has seen the city and board partner on three schools, including a new secondary one at Scott Park that will sit next to the new Bernie Morelli rec centre.

The school will also have access to neighbouring Tim Hortons Field and share an artificial-turf field at the former Dominion Glass property with the Ticats.

Dan Del Bianco, the board’s senior facilities officer, said the “fantastic, spectacular-looking” high school and rec centre benefitted from sharing the same architect.