Hamilton school board banks Sherwood cash as renewal strategy nears end

Hamilton’s public school board will spend just $2 million of $11 million earmarked for the fourth year of a high school renewal strategy, banking the balance as its contribution toward rebuilding Sherwood.

Associate director Stacey Zucker said an artificial-turf sports field at the new Nora Frances Henderson school being built on the South Mountain is the lone project for the 2019-20 school year.

Sherwood aside, she told trustees on the finance and facilities committee that the board has one remaining project still to be funded at a cost to the board of $1 million — an artificial-turf field at the former Dominion Glass property to be shared by the new Bernie Custis high school and Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The five-year strategy has budgeted $11 million annually for upgrades to high schools surviving closure reviews in four “benchmarks” — science labs, learning commons, sports fields and gym floors — and all other projects at the 13 high schools are scheduled to be completed by next fall.

Sherwood’s renovations were paused in 2015 because related asbestos abatement ballooned costs and required the second floor to be closed for a year.

The board has put the east Mountain school’s rebuild at or near the top of its list of capital funding requests to the Ministry of Education every year since then — without success. The offers to the province have included a commitment by the board to fund $9 million of the estimated $37-million rebuild.

Committee chair Greg Van Geffen said it bothers him the board has been unable to resolve the issue this term despite offering $9 million of its own money. The Dundas-area trustee said it’s unclear when the next funding chance will come because a traditional ministry call for capital requests didn’t happen this year.

“The Sherwood question is huge,” he said. “There’s no question about it, it’s a big concern.”

Zucker said the ministry has previously identified surplus spaces at the existing Henderson — formerly Barton — among reasons for rejecting the Sherwood requests. That might change if the board sells Barton after it closes.

“Each time we submit our business case, we strengthen it as much as we can,” she said.