$55 million to be spent on school upgrades
36 elementary sites survived closure reviews
Hamilton’s public school board plans to spend $55 million over five years to upgrade 36 elementary schools that have survived closure reviews as of the end of June.
Trustees voted 8-1 recently to approve a capital plan setting aside $40 million of the cash for new gyms — or $2.5 million apiece — at 16 schools to be identified later.
Another $5 million will go toward implementing a new elementary program strategy, including the renovation of areas for special education and music classes.
The rest of the money will renew gym floors, learning commons, and science and visual-arts rooms at 25 schools, and upgrade 20 playing fields.
The plan didn’t sit well with Flamborough trustee Penny Deathe, who objected that schools in the Waterdown area won’t benefit because they’re scheduled for a closure study in 2020-21.
Seventeen schools on the Mountain and four in Dundas are similarly excluded from the plan. Schools in upper Stoney Creek are included because they aren’t scheduled for a review.
“I understand that we don’t want to put money into a school that could potentially be closed,” Deathe said. “But it’s sort of unfair to those students who happen to be in older schools that haven’t gone through an accommodation review.”
But west Mountain trustee Wes Hicks, who chairs the board’s finance and facilities committee, said the plan tries to best allot limited resources, and excluded schools can expect similar upgrades if they survive closure reviews.
“We had to have a cut-off point,” he said.
Treasurer Stacey Zucker said 63 of the board’s 89 elementary schools have gone through closure reviews, and staff identified the 36 schools by subtracting those either expected to close or built after 2000.
She said the plan is “very high level” at this point and will require more study to determine if some projects are feasible.
Zucker said the 16 gyms are the most expensive component because they are more than 500 square feet short of provincial standards, and need to be expanded.
“Depending on the location of the gym, depending on how much property there is, it may or may not be able to happen.”
Board chair Todd White said now that the budget has been set, staff will develop a schedule and flesh out details on how to deliver the plan, modelled after one already in place for secondary schools.
Funding will come from two annual provincial grants for school renewal and maintenance as well as proceeds from selling surplus schools and properties — the latter estimated at $65 million over the next five years.
The plan will give priority to schools in poor condition and timesensitive partnership opportunities that can save costs, according to a staff report.
“We aim to give those schools that need the work more money,” White said. “At the end of the day, they should all offer similar facilities for students.”