Special Report: Education

A Trustee Explains HWDSB Crestwood Plan

HWDSB Trustee Judith Bishop explains the process by which the Board settled on the Crestwood site as the preferred location for a new Education Centre.

By Judith Bishop
Published February 02, 2012

Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) began studying its present four administrative buildings, a total of over 192,000 square feet, in 2007.

The motivation for a new education centre was that administrative functions were spread out at Memorial Ancaster, Crestwood, Maple Lane and the Education Centre; a legacy of amalgamation of the Wentworth and Hamilton Boards.

All these buildings are in need of renovation as well as needing $28.7 million in repairs. None completely meet our needs.

There were community consultations and the Board heard clearly that staying in the downtown core was seen as important. Preliminary work established that renovation and an addition to the present education centre would cost $55 million, funds the Board did not have.

There was an attempt to work on a project with McMaster University and the City (for Public Health). The HWDSB put together a business plan, which involved a joint-use facility with McMaster and Public health on the present Education Centre site, with commercial space.

HWDSB required Ministry of Education approval of this business plan to move ahead, as it does for any education centre project, but it was not forthcoming.

We were told that we were an educational organization, not a leasing or commercial development agency, and that the scope was beyond our expertise. (Vancouver School Board built an education centre in this manner which has proved self-sustaining). So this project died.

In 2009, the Board set out to make sure that it understood what its internal stakeholders required in an education centre, developing a visioning document, and from this a functional view including adequate parking and meeting space, and all departments in one building.

It became clear that the sale of the current Education Centre land was an important component in any business plan for the new Education centre.

About seven downtown properties were then explored, as well as other properties elsewhere.

Properties that were small, entailing the building of many floors, were discarded because of the additional cost of such buildings.

From this process, the West Harbour lands were seen as the most desirable as there was sufficient space for our requirements and it could help down-town renewal. However, the expense to clean up the environmental concerns placed this outside the financial capability of the Board.

So the property that met the Board's needs became the Crestwood site, which the Board already owns, and which could be developed.

The business plan for this requires the sale of the Education Centre and another administrative site, and using operational savings, calculated at $1.3 million a year, to finance the remaining portion of a $31.6 million, 113 square foot building.

With these constraints, the building at Crestwood (close to a large retail property and already used as a school on land owned by the Board) is the most affordable to build to the requirements needed.

It has been noted that light rail plans include a link to Limeridge Mall nearby; accessibility was also one of the requirements that the Board was looking for.

Judith Bishop is the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board Trustee for Wards 1 and 2.


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By Cleaver (anonymous) | Posted February 02, 2012 at 13:54:35

GoogleMaps is telling me that it takes the Upper Wellington just under half an hour to get to Crestwood from the MacNab Street Terminal. It'd be great to bring that time down, but I'm not holding my breath for light rail to deliver that change.

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By Sigma Cub (anonymous) | Posted February 04, 2012 at 08:19:29 in reply to Comment 73661

Looks more like just over 15 minutes from downtown to U Went & Mohawk.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted February 02, 2012 at 14:04:11

LRT? Seriously? They will have torn down their new Ed Centre and moved to a farmer's field in Binbrook by the time LRT arrives at Limeridge.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted February 02, 2012 at 14:47:36

"About seven downtown properties were then explored, as well as other properties elsewhere.

Properties that were small, entailing the building of many floors, were discarded because of the additional cost of such buildings.

From this process, the West Harbour lands were seen as the most desirable as there was sufficient space for our requirements and it could help down-town renewal. However, the expense to clean up the environmental concerns placed this outside the financial capability of the Board."

So...fromt his, it sounds like you were looking at purchasing properties, rather than leasing. Was there a reason for this?

One would presume that leasing space from a landlord, who would likely be willing to rennovate to suit the board, rather than leaving the space vacant (Stelco Tower, etc.) would be cheaper and better for everyone.

Is there some cost savings in owning your own building that I don't know about, other than neglecting needed repairs as seems to have been done with the current building?

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 02, 2012 at 16:21:58 in reply to Comment 73665

I'm guessing parking is their concern with 'space', but could be wrong.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted February 02, 2012 at 16:46:33

What does "close to a large retail property" have to do with anything? Did they read their own list of objectives at all?

  • Objective # 1 Consolidate operations, to the greatest extent possible, in a seamless place of work and learning.
  • Objective # 2 Develop a welcoming, convenient, accessible, and inclusive environment that mirrors the diverse and evolving constituencies served by the Board.
  • Objective # 3 Provide a public venue for the celebration of student, staff, and community achievements.
  • Objective # 4 Plan for the accommodation of wide-ranging learner and support services offered by the Board and community agencies.
  • Objective # 5 Demonstrate a commitment to sustainability through building design. Anticipate organizational change through flexible accommodations.
  • Objective # 6 Contribute to the vitality of the Education Centre’s surroundings and stand as a civic landmark.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted February 02, 2012 at 17:25:26

"Properties that were small, entailing the building of many floors, were discarded because of the additional cost of such buildings."

Really meaning no free parking available.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted February 02, 2012 at 19:39:12 in reply to Comment 73672

Exactly. The 'additional cost' of such buildings is an underground parking garage. That's what boosted the cost of renovating their current building.

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By jones (anonymous) | Posted February 02, 2012 at 18:53:57 in reply to Comment 73672

doesn't mean anything. Crestwood is too small and requires building floors. And was not discarded. Crestwood would also sell for a nice penny - how much would Delta get? Yet I don't see a push to move into Delta. I wonder why.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 02, 2012 at 18:52:50

I'm very intrigued by a couple of points she made:

  1. The province not allowing them to join the mixed-use 'Education Square' proposal from a few years ago. Once again, the province is caught not abiding by their own 'places to grow' act. Talk about a complete lack of imagination and creativity when it comes to development.

  2. The reference to Vancouver. The Vancouver school board website has this as one of it's front page articles: http://www.vsb.bc.ca/district-news/deman...

Hamilton supposedly wants to become a vibrant, safe, family-friendly city and is actively working towards reversing the trends of sprawl from the past 40 years. Problem is, the school board hasn't been reading the news. They still make decisions based on the city's growth patterns from 1980-early 2000's. By closing urban schools and helping make the choice even easier for families to bail to the suburbs they are doing the complete opposite of everyone else, be it the province, city, business and the young generation families who have filled up Strathcona, Kirkendall, Westdale and now Durand and the North End are seeing the influx.
We are setting ourselves up for either:

  • not having to ever worry about urban schools being overcrowded like in Vancouver, or
  • having Vancouvers problem in a much worse way since we'll have closed down most urban schools north of Mohawk Road.

Why must every new convenience store or housing project be judged by city planners against the backdrop of 'places to grow' yet the publicly funded school board doesn't?

Meanwhile in Toronto the province didn't seem to mind a TO school project involving other uses: http://dcnonl.com/article/id32757

Vancouvers School Board education centre, referenced by Judith, is similar to what was proposed here a few years ago: http://thethunderbird.ca/2011/11/18/npa-...

A quick overview of their mixed-use Education Centre, which was built in 1996. Yes, 16 years ago Vancouver was doing mixed-use projects for education projects, yet here in Ontario we're still lagging way behind....no surprise. http://www.pwlpartnership.com/#/our-port...

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By DavidColacci (registered) | Posted February 02, 2012 at 20:07:58

All while they axe french immersion programs in JK.

From the Spec February 2nd,

"Director John Malloy said he agreed that equity is important. He also said he believes the recommendation put forward by staff — to cut senior kindergarten French immersion across the board this fall — was “the most equitable option.”

“There is no argument from the staff perspective around the effectiveness of French immersion,” he said, but it’s an issue of give and take. If French immersion remains in kindergarten classrooms, the pursestrings will have to be tightened in other areas of the budget, such as special education. "


This is getting very frustrating.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted February 03, 2012 at 13:59:17 in reply to Comment 73680

You mean SK. JK has never had Immersion programs. We're losing SK Immersion.

This is particularly frustrating for me because my son is in JK at George R Allan, a school that

a) Will not be saving any money with the loss of SK French, by their own numbers, and

b) Has not yet received all-day JK/SK.

Meanwhile the Catholic board is doing just fine offering both of these services.

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By JasonAAllen (registered) - website | Posted February 03, 2012 at 15:50:52 in reply to Comment 73698

Unfortunately, because of discrepancies in how the Catholic and Public Board calculated their funding models - and those methods now being brought in line, folks over at the Catholic board are sharpening their axes in a big way. It's not going to be pretty.

I'm really torn on this, because my oldest son is in French Immersion, and benefitted from it in SK, however my younger son has Down Syndrome, and kids with special needs are already second (third?) class citizens in the public board (q.v. how quick the board was to axe Parkdale Collegiate). French immersion is a great program, and many kids benefit from it, but so many students with Special needs are languishing with colouring books at the back of their classroom in a failed lip-service to 'inclusion,' rather than being provided with meaningful educational opportunities that will enable them to take an active role in their community. Further cuts will only exacerbate this situation.

In a world of limited assets, I would rather see students with special needs get a slightly fairer shake. It's not like the French Immersion classes are being cut entirely.

Besides - if you think the budget tightening at the Public and Catholic boards is bad now - wait until February 18th.

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By DavidColacci (registered) | Posted February 03, 2012 at 17:12:46 in reply to Comment 73699

I am sad to hear this. Special Needs kids and their special requirements should not take a back seat to French Immersion, nor should French Immersion take a backseat to Special Needs kids. This board should figure out that all of them are there to educate these kids first and foremost, not to build themselves a shiny new building with lots of asphalt.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted February 03, 2012 at 16:52:45 in reply to Comment 73699

Yeah, I can see that. I just don't understand what's changed between this year and the last... particularly since, at my son's school, they've indicated that this change won't actually provide any savings and they're only doing it for the sake of consistence.

On a slightly offtopic but related subject:

I'm honestly in the dark here.... I mean, I can't imagine how challenging it must be to raise a developmentally delayed child...

But I really can't comprehend the drive for "inclusion", considering how hard it is for a teacher to properly accommodate a child with such distinct needs when a specialist is better-equipped to teach them. Is it the board that pushes for that, or parents? Is there something I'm missing?

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By JasonAAllen (registered) - website | Posted February 03, 2012 at 21:38:02 in reply to Comment 73701

Thanks for the question Pxtl, it's an important one. First, full disclosure, I'm the President of the Down Syndrome Association of Hamilton, although the views here expressed are my own.

The benefit to a kid with an Intellectual Disability (ID) of being included in a class with typical kids is pretty substantial, with the benefit to the typical kids being up there too. Part of the challenge is, that the idea of 'segregating' (I use the racially charged word deliberately) is an old one - people with DS were routinely institutionalized without their parents full understanding (or sometimes consent) until the 60s in Canada, and in some provinces were routinely sterilized without their consent until the 70s. When something or someone is always 'separate', they are always the other, and normal relationships and mutual respect are difficult, if not impossible.

A kid with special needs in an integrated classroom becomes part of 'normal'. He is recognized by his peers as being just one of the kids, and has a much greater chance (indeed their only chance) of being accepted into the community - and of learning those social skills that lead to acceptance, rather than the person with ID just accepting their segregation.

This leads to greater integration into the community later in life as well.

Also, I'm sure you can see that benefits flow to the typical kids as well, with many studies showing kids in integrated classrooms grow up to be more compassionate, and have a much more thoughtful view of what makes up 'ability.'

All this being said - many kids with "Mild Intellectual Delay" (most kids with DS included) benefit greatly from regular classroom instruction - especially if a little extra help is forthcoming from an EA. Segregated classrooms are also often poorly resourced, and don't necessarily lead to any more focused/specialized instruction than they would get in an integrated classroom with a qualified EA. Still, some kids with more substantial delays do benefit from being in separate classrooms part, or even all of the time (although my colleagues on the Affiliate Council of the Canadian Down Syndrome Society would be apoplectic if they caught me saying so in a public forum). The point is, the choice must be there, and the resources must exist to support those choices, or we run the very real risk of sliding quickly back to the days of segregated classes, and eventually institutionalization.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted February 07, 2012 at 09:57:45 in reply to Comment 73706

"many kids with "Mild Intellectual Delay" (most kids with DS included) benefit greatly from regular classroom instruction - especially if a little extra help is forthcoming from an EA"

Very true. Unfortunately, the public board is nowhere near meeting the need for EAs... and if the only reasons for an EA are the educational needs of the child, it is almost certain you will not get one (at least in the lower city; other areas seem to get higher EA allocations). Only if you can show genuine needs related to safety - i.e. only if the board sees potential legal liability - will you be likely to get EA assistance for a child who needs one for educational reasons.

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By d.knox (registered) | Posted February 02, 2012 at 20:26:53

Oh my. I get it. Ms. Bishop, I applaud you. All this nonsense with suburban sprawl and destructive parking-lot culture is a negotiating strategy. Now, now that you have shown how regressive and exclusive your board can be, you will be able to go to the city and make them pay to clean up the Rheem lands. Brilliant. Do it now. Make a downtown location your legacy. Your name will live on. Move to a non-entity, a can't-get-there-from-here-without-a-car-you-peons location and your name will be revived only in curses. You can make a difference. This is brilliant. Now do it.

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By mrgrande (registered) | Posted February 02, 2012 at 20:45:26

Can they not bring the idea of a mixed centre back to the province? It's been several years, maybe they've changed their minds.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted February 02, 2012 at 21:26:13 in reply to Comment 73682

That would require a majority of trustees willing to keep working toward a solution instead of just 'packing their bags'.

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By Too Late (anonymous) | Posted February 02, 2012 at 22:08:34

As saddened as we all are about the current situation regarding the Board's plans to move south, I think we should thank Judith Bishop for taking the time to respond to our concerns and try to explain what her and the Board ran up against in their site selection process. It's more than we have seen from many other players in downtown development (or lack thereof) sagas and she deserves to be commended. Let's take her comments at face value and keep them in mind when, inevitably, this sort of situation arises again.

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By jones (anonymous) | Posted February 02, 2012 at 23:26:05 in reply to Comment 73685

Nope, I don't buy this for a second. This is her job. She's a public official. This board, like the police board, practices public consultation at the barest level of legislative compliance. I'm sure it's different where education practices are concerned, but that's the problem - why should educators have any power over planning and building decisions like this? Not only that, her answer is evasive and biased. I don't buy her argument about the 7 downtown locations looked at nor the part about having to add stories. If adding stories was an issue then why did the place they finally chose also not have enough stories??? If they were set on downtown but happy enough to tear a building down, THEN WHY NOT CHOOSE A PLACE DOWNTOWN!!! This is another career politician trying to save face.

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By d.knox (registered) | Posted February 02, 2012 at 22:26:14 in reply to Comment 73685

True. I was going to include a thank-you to Judith Bishop in my post. I'm sure the trustees worked diligently at this. I am sure Judith works many, many more hours than she's compensated for, and that some of her work is thankless.

But, the board conclusion is wrong. They worked hard, but they didn't do a good job. In school, they'd get another chance to demonstrate mastery. They have obviously not demonstrated mastery of their own objectives and therefore need to try again. This is not the legacy they need to leave.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted February 07, 2012 at 09:59:58 in reply to Comment 73686

Judith is my trustee, and she is a fantastic trustee who works incredibly hard for her constituents. And she deserves praise for not ignoring the dissatisfaction here, but engaging it

That said, I agree with many here that the Board's response here is simply not good enough.

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted February 03, 2012 at 08:12:01

Ms. Bishop said they considered about seven potential sites in downtown Hamilton for their new headquarters. She said the West Harbour brownfield lands was one such site. It would have been additionally informative for her to share with us the locations of the other six downtown sites the School Board considered.

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By Simon (registered) - website | Posted February 03, 2012 at 17:34:10

Not really a lot of information here - but I can take away the following:

  1. Memorial Ancaster, Crestwood, Maple Lane and the Education Centre require $28.7 million in repairs right now. That means the board has intentionally mismanaged these properties to the point where the have become cost prohibitive to upkeep - and therefore they retain minimal resale value.

  2. The board could carry on with status quo for $2.9 million LESS than the current Crestwood proposal ($31.6M Crestwood minus $28.7M repairs) - excluding the cost of operational savings - stated to be $1.3 million/year. However, the required repairs would drastically increase the operational efficiencies of each site. Bottom line - it will be pretty much the same cost for the board to actually take care of their toys rather than throw them out and buy something new.

  3. The current Memorial Ancaster, Crestwood, Maple Lane and the Education Centre don't meet their "needs". Maybe not - but packing everything into a giant parking lot certainly doesn't meet the community's needs, or the City's needs or the needs of pretty much anyone else except themselves.

  4. The board claims that they must sell the current Education Center property in order to finance the whole scheme. Where to begin. The board could simply take out a loan against the equity in their property to finance their renovations. Or they could sell the valuable Crestwood site - it is a (parking)lot bigger than 100 Main W - to fund renovations at the Education Center.

The board has closed and sold off tons of urban school properties over the years - and they are planning on closing and selling off even more right now - where has the revenues from all of those assets been re-invested? Its not like they have been spending money on maintaining their existing facilities. Finally, how is the Education Center property theirs to sell in the first place since it was given to them by the City (at the least it is highly unethical).

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted February 04, 2012 at 00:56:32

Just think, if the province cancelled this all day, everyday kindergarten farce, there would be more than enough money to build the building with its many stories, downtown.

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By Staffer (anonymous) | Posted February 09, 2012 at 20:43:59

Who cares about her/their "process" !
The process was dumb and the decision even dumber.
Did she look at all the vast empty parking lot sites downtown??????
They wanted the Crestwood site from the get go because it is convenient to Trustees and employees...frss parking, shopping at Limeridege etc etc ad infinitum.
I think City Council is stupid for facilitating their move to Crestwood while at the same time urging people and institutions to invest downtown. For the headquarters of a large PUBLIC school board to be placed in suburbia is not just a travesty it is insane.
I am so glad Matt Jelly is campaigning against this...Way to go Matt.

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