Planning decisions by the school board can no longer be made in isolation from needs of the community at large.
By Gary Santucci
Published December 02, 2014
Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary is the largest high school in the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board. The school opened in 1970 and the student body now represents over 80 countries of origin and has over 50 different native languages.
Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School (Image Credit: Wikipedia)
The school has a theatre auditorium that seats 750 people, which was originally built as a community performance venue that could not be accommodated in the construction of Hamilton Place. There are auto mechanic garages, two large art studio classrooms and a large natural grass playing field.
The school is located at 130 York Boulevard, close to the city Public Library and across the street from the Copps Coliseum and Lloyd D. Jackson Square Mall.
The ongoing population growth in our Downtown Core, along with the residential intensification strategy for the Core as promoted during the election by our newly elected Mayor Fred Eisenberger, demands that we maintain a Secondary School in the Core to keep the momentum for this intensification that must include families.
Sir John A Macdonald is uniquely located in the hub of our public transit system, accessible by bus from many points in the City. Further expansion of the yellow school bus approach to move students with its increased financial and environmental costs would not be incurred.
Currently, Westdale Secondary School is near capacity and will likely require portable classrooms, in addition to a multi-million dollar renovation to the school's basement to accommodate the students resulting from the closure of Sir John A. Macdonald.
A simple boundary change of the catchment area will direct more students to Sir John A, relieving the stress on Westdale and reducing costs.
The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) also incurs costs by renting space for programs outside of the normal classrooms. These programs could be relocated to Sir John A to take advantage of any excess classroom, thus reducing costs for the Board and resulting in immediate savings.
Once again, access from all points in the City by transit makes this a wise choice.
Referring to empty classrooms as excess space is a curious definition. These classrooms must be considered as opportunities for the Board and the community to repurpose and exploit for the benefit our citizens, both young and old.
One such obvious opportunity would be to designate Sir John A Macdonald Secondary School as the Board's Signature School for the arts, music, drama and the visual arts.
The school's facilities and location in proximity to the James Street North art's district would offer so many possibilities for students to engage with professional artists and the arts scene.
This move would bring students from many diverse backgrounds and socio-economic conditions together under one roof of artistic excellence.
Hamilton Place and the Studio Theatre were built with funds provided by the residents of the City of Hamilton, but these publicly-owned and -funded facilities have now become unaffordable for our performing arts community.
Restoring full access to the Sir John A Theatre would address the need for an affordable accessible mid-sized venue for our community and generate revenue for the HWDSB.
Finally, planning decisions by the HWDSB can no longer be made in isolation from needs of the community at large.
It is incumbent upon the newly elected Board to address this during the next term and to work closely with Hamilton City Council in an open and transparent manner.
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