Public school board trustees will be deciding on a recommendation to build a new administration building - $23 million +

News 100 blueBy Staff

March 20th, 2018



The easiest way to get this story out is to report that after deciding to close two of Burlington’s seven high schools the trustees will decide on Wednesday if they want to go forward with the building of a new administrative building at a cost of $23 million plus some ongoing financing that will have to be taken on.

The recommendation the trustees are going to debate is:

Be it resolved that the Halton District School Board direct the Director of Education to initiate the construction of a new administrative building on the J.W. Singleton Education Centre property, pending Ministry approval.

Stuart Miller

Director of Education Stuart Miller has put forward a staff recommendation to construct a new Board administration building.

In a report to the trustees Director of Education Stuart Miller set out the conclusion that he and his Superintendents arrive at goes like this:

The Halton District School Board is the largest single employer in the entire Halton region. With more than 8000 full and part time employees serving 65,000 students and their families, it is clear the Halton District School Board is a very significant part of the Region of Halton. Moreover, dozens of Halton-based businesses employing a multitude of Halton residents do business with and provide services to the Board, its students and its staff. With a budget of more than $760 million, it is also apparent the Board and its employees contribute greatly to the local economy.

aerial of site

If the trustees follow the staff recommendation Burlington will see a new multi storey structure at the north west intersection of Upper Middle Road and Guelph Line.

The staff who currently work in the J.W. Singleton Education Centre, New Street Education Centre and the Milton Learning Centre are vital to the work of the schools. Halton students and graduates are served very well by their teachers, educational assistants, school administrators and all school- based support staff. Indeed, Halton District School Board students perform consistently at or near the top when compared to other boards across the province.

This cannot occur without the support of those who work in the various Board offices. Vital operations such as information technology, payroll, human resources, purchasing, facility services, library services, academic consulting, student services (special education), financial services, senior management and the functions of the Board of Trustees all occur centrally. Each of these services, and more, provide essential support for both the achievement and well-being of the Halton District School Board’s students. The role of all central support staff is crucial to the continued success of all Halton District School Board students.

Current offices

Photographs of current administrative offices at the Singleton Centre on Guelph Line.

The current facilities that accommodate these staff are inadequate. There is insufficient space and the condition of the current buildings are found wanting. To meet the current needs, including AODA compliance, would require a significant investment of millions of dollars. In addition, retrofitting or renovations would result in the displacement of hundreds of personnel and several school operations.

The need for an administrative centre that provides a modern, efficient building that is fully accessible and adaptable to future needs, will have a positive impact on professional relationships, operations and ultimately student learning and well-being.

In the fall of 2017 the Halton Regional Police Services moved into a new headquarters on North Service Road. The building itself cost $54 million and was built on Region-owned land. This new headquarters will serve the police services and ultimately the citizens of Halton well into the future.

A new Halton District School Board education centre will serve the same purpose for the tens of thousands of students we serve, well into the future.

New HQ

New Regional Police HQ – due to be opened in the very near future.

Like the Halton Regional Police Services headquarters, which was situated on regional land, the new HDSB administrative centre would be placed on Board property. This will result in a savings of approximately $5.6 to $8.8 million dollars, as land would not have to be purchased. It is also more efficient and would allow the project to be started and completed in a shorter time period.

It is for these reasons staff are recommending a new education centre be constructed on the site of the current administrative centre, subject to the required approvals.

How did the Board get to this point and have you heard anything about it from your school board trustee?

The Halton District School Board has grown to 65,000 students, an increase of 35% in student population during the past 10 years. This has resulted in a corresponding increase in staff across the system. There are currently 388 staff assigned to both the J.W. Singleton Centre and New Street Education Centre. This number has increased during the years and will continue to increase, as enrolment grows, in order to provide support and oversight to ensure schools operate effectively.

Because of this growth, staff have been engaged in a study of accommodation needs of central administrative Board staff.

Five level bldg

Architects schematic of what would go where in a new School Board administrative building.

A February 4, 2015 initiated a review to determine if the Board offices are adequate to carry out the current and future functions of the Board. This report identified Snyder and Associates Inc. as the consultant to lead this study. Two phases were outlined. Phase one was a comprehensive needs assessment followed by phase two which provided options for consideration to address the needs identified in phase one.

A report to the Board in June 24, 2015 outlined the results of phase one, confirming that the current administrative spaces are inadequate to accommodate the current and growing needs of central staff and the functions they perform.

The second phase was a February 17, 2017 report that highlighted ideal proximity of departments for optimal synergies and the importance of centralizing all administrative functions of the Board at one site, ideally geographically central in the Board. The report confirmed the current practice of accommodating staff through reorganization and/or minor modifications/ renovations of current space is not a long term solution. Spaces are cramped, lacking privacy, meeting space is inappropriate, building systems are outdated and accessibility remains an issue.

The report identified the need for a facility that:

• is flexible and adaptable to future needs
• encourages collaboration and innovation
• provides a safe and inclusive environment
• is fully accessible for staff and the public
• enhances employee well-being to improve employee performance
• enhances community and board wide engagement

The report also outlined general specifications including square footage, cost and the number of staff to be accommodated.

An October 16, 2016 to the reported staff had been in contact with municipalities and a joint facility was not a likely option. Staff had also investigated available vacant land geographically central to the Board and determined there is no readily available vacant land.

The facility would require approximately eight acres of land. The report also outlined possible concept plans for two currently owned administrative centre lands: Gary Allan High School/New Street Education Centre and M.M. Robinson/J.W. Singleton Centre.

E.C. Drury Campus
During the course of the past 14 months, staff have investigated the potential use of the E.C. Drury site. This site is geographically located centrally within the Board which has some obvious advantages. The E.C. Drury site, however, is owned and operated by Provincial Schools. This is a complicating factor and to date staff have not been able to engage in the necessary discussions with the Province (Infrastructure Ontario) that would result in this piece of property being considered a viable option. Any further discussions would likely be long and arduous making this option less than ideal.

Land Availability
The consultants have suggested for a new location, eight acres would be sufficient to accommodate a new administration building. This site size would allow for unknowns such as site configuration, setbacks, easements, and future expansion. The Planning Department, supported by consultants Cushman & Wakefield, has confirmed there is currently very little available land central to the Board, including north Oakville or Milton that would meet the size and configuration requirements of a Board administrative office.

Potential Costs
Building a new facility would cost approximately $32 million (tender portion). The Ministry does not fund new administrative centres nor the acquisition of land for a new administrative facility. The Board must finance the construction and, if desired, land acquisition. The acquisition of property for school sites in North Oakville and Milton range in the $1.4 to $2.0 million per acre range. More specific to the Board’s needs for office/employment land, values in north Oakville or Milton are between $700,000 and $1,100,000 per acre, making the cost to purchase the land alone to be approximately $5.6-$8.8 million.

All options presented to the Board will result in a requirement to finance the construction of the new facility. In recognition that funds required to construct a facility would take several years to compile, the following recommendations to allocate funds to the Future Administrative Facility have been approved:

Allocation from Year-end Surplus:

December 2013) $ 1,125,291
November 2015) $2,500,000 Transfers within Accumulated Surplus:
November 2016) $8,919,579
Total $12,544,870

November 2016) $11,100,000

Total Funds Available for Future Administrative Facility $ 23,644,870

The balance of funds required to construct the new administrative facility would be secured through long-term financing. The principal and interest payments would be budgeted through the Board administration and governance funding envelope.

Ontario Regulation 193/10 restricts the amount of funds that can be used for the purposes of constructing administrative facilities. Under this regulation, the Board can only use proceeds of disposition which have been generated through the sale of a former administrative facility. Therefore, the Board cannot use proceeds of disposition generated from the sale of school sites.

Existing Administrative Office Sites
The utilization of existing Board property, either the J.W. Singleton Centre or New St. Education Centre site, would substantially reduce the total cost of the new administrative centre. The Board already owns both potential properties.

Renovating either existing building has been deemed to be problematic for the following reasons:

a. cost of retrofitting and updating the existing building
b. ongoing maintenance and operating costs of existing building
c. accessibility issues within the existing building

The M.M. Robinson H.S. property is approximately 33.6 acres in size, which includes J.W. Singleton Centre (see attachment). Although it is not identified as a separate piece of land, it is estimated the J.W. Singleton Centre site is approximately 5.7 acres in size. The New Street Education Centre/Gary Allan property consists of approximately of 14.67 acres, although the property is fragmented given the previous acquisitions of portions of the site to the City of Burlington.

The consultants have prepared schematic facility fit drawings confirming a 95,000 square foot admin centre could be placed on either property. If the Board were to move forward with building on either the J.W. Singleton Centre site or the New Street Education Centre site, an Official Plan Amendment and rezoning would be required. The Board’s Planning Department has identified the undertaking of an Official Plan Amendment and zoning amendment for the New Street Education Centre/Gary Allan site would likely be problematic, given the residential nature of the surrounding neighbourhood and the concerns related to a use that may not be compatible with the area.

street view of the site

If approved the building would be built on the north west corner of the Upper Middle Road – Guelph Line intersection in Burlington.

The location of the new administration centre on the existing J.W. Singleton Centre site would likely be less cause for concern from area residents. Locating a building at the northwest corner of Guelph Line and Upper Middle Road, would be more compatible to the adjacent land uses (i.e., retail malls to the east and southeast) and M.M. Robinson H.S., located to the west. Also, the location of a new administration centre on the current site, would allow for enhanced building exposure and street presence to ensure the Halton District School Board remains visible in the community.

Trustees - fill board +

The Halton District School Board trustees will decide if they want the administration to proceed with the construction of a new administrative building

The current location also offers better transportation/transit access due to its proximity to a major transportation corridors (Guelph Line/Upper Middle Road) as well as the QEW/403 and Highway 407, as compared to the New Street Education Centre/Gary Allan location. Planning staff believes the potential development of a new administrative centre at this location could provide for other office/retail opportunities that potentially could assist in the reducing the operating costs for the new administration centre.

survey01Does that sound like there will be a Tim Hortons included in the design.

Lastly, the location of the new administration centre at the existing location would ensure the current J.W. Singleton Centre workforce would be minimally impacted.

Get ready for the Burlington reaction to this one.

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23 comments to Public school board trustees will be deciding on a recommendation to build a new administration building – $23 million +

  • D.Duck

    Repair the public schools for our children prior to building a new school board office for the trustees. Seems prudent and full of common sense. Gives me a warm feeling too. Students have been in portables far longer than board office staff.

  • Sharon

    Is this Mr. Miller’s idea of helping the community heal?

    My question is if it’s okay to stuff students in portables like Haydon and it’s going to happen at Nelson when Bateman moves in. Why can’t they use portables?

    • Rose Brooks

      Board office staff are already using portables, between the Guelph Line site and MMR. But please DO contact your trustee(s) and get the full picture of how school buildings are managed to accommodate fluctuating enrolments. It is quite a process!

  • John

    Based upon many years of dealing with the hdsb nothing happens by chance. This has been in the works for awhile. I would guess well prior to the school closings. Planning coming to fruition with a great deal of internal collaboration. I agree the real problem should be solved in June. The secondary problem in the fall municipal elections with some people stepping forward who have the courage to say no to the small ruling elite at what we called fort fumble. No money for special needs students; but money for a new building. Really give me a break.

  • P. Parenti

    Can we first repair our schools that are in disrepair? Boys washrooms at CH Norton public school need new hand air dryers, sinks, toilets and doors that operate properly. Teachers washroom is fine. Our children’s promoting sickness and also bad habits for the students.

    • Parent

      Report CH Norton to Health Canada for health violation, and/or WSIB (Workers Safely Insurance Board) for workplace safety violation.

  • Ken

    While, the school funding formula and accompanying policy is broken does anyone not think Kathleen Wynne wouldn’t take Mayor Goldring’s call all day long?

    Point is, sound reason & some political pressure would go along way to fixing these problems and satisfying the electorate. Oh ya??? Those people.

    Next the numbers are barren in support against this build: projected cost of New Admin Centre; $24M/95,000 square feet = $562 per foot. Region Court House on Palladium; $15.7M/34,000 = $462 per foot. Purchase of SIM’s building by COB $17M/65,000 = $262 per foot. (this includes the land…)

    Maybe someone should teach the administrators how to use a calculator or should we just leave them stupid?

  • craig gardner

    it is painfully obvious the bureaucrats in Halton Board of Ed have forgotten their purpose ‘the students’ I agree with comments delay the vote tilll the new trustees are elected and teh old are as is appropriate not re-elected as it might dramatically change things. the director may no longer be employed for instance. I am told by teachers similarly that the board office has lost sight of the children. No clearer example than the closing of the AMAZING Bateman schools whose program and caring for all their stidents can not be replicated. This should be an election issue for sure as should the closure of the two schools.

  • Allen Jones

    Ahmen Mr. Parr, Ahmen on all points … I particularly liked the reference to Trump … do you think they know who he is???

  • George

    The decision “to initiate the construction of a new administrative building on the J. W. Singleton Education Centre property, …” by the Halton District School Board Trustees (HDSB) should be delayed until the results of the June and October 2018, Provincial and Municipal elections are known for a number of reasons as follows:

    1. Both elections may result in significant change in political behaviours. E.g. three (3) of the four (4) Burlington HDSB Trustees (Reynolds, Grebenc and Papin) voted to close Burlington High Schools in spite of enormous public opposition and delegations to not close the schools. As well the Wynne government initiated the process to close Ontario Schools.

    2. The HDSB in the above article claims 8000 employees for 65,000 students which is a ratio of one (1) for every eight (8) students. Plus the HDSB claims 388 staff plus the enormous number of bureaucrats in the Ontario Ministry of Education,
    This is a tremendous amount of overhead. In industry or any business not funded solely by the taxpayers or rate payers when responsibilities are reduced (two Burlington high schools) staff is reduced. The HDSB increased its staff with the process of closing 28.5% of Burlington’s High Schools.

  • Rose Brooks

    As a former HDSB employee having worked in both elementary and secondary schools and in the finance department, where I was involved in budgetting new schools, I can absolutely say that
    (1) it is important to note that funding for schools and funding for administration are not interchangeable (this is a provincial rule, not local to Halton), so while the timing of this motion may be awkward, building a new admin centre in no way uses funds that could have kept Pearson and Bateman open
    (2) closing schools does not “save” the board money. In order to build new schools in areas of new growth, the PROVINCE requires that all available pupil places in a board be full. In effect, that means that keeping partially empty schools open in older areas prevents boards from building schools in new areas containing far more pupils. Additionally, high schools with very small populations (like Pearson at aro 500 students) cannot offer the breadth of program to their students that serves those kids well when they move on to post-secondary education
    (3) the board outgrew the existing Singleton Centre more than 2 decades ago, and has been housing the board’s human infrastructure in multiple sites all that time, foregoing efficiency in the name of cost saving. The office photos in this article are not representative of my own experience: desks in hallways, multiple departments sharing old high school classrooms separated only by bookcases, buildings without elevators (imagine multiple 50 lb. boxes of copier paper being carried by hand each day from the basement loading dock to the second floor finance dept),and insufficient staff training spaces.

    This is not about people being able to “intuitively” reconcile school closures….and school openings!….with a new admin building. It is about press coverage that should be seeking to explain rather than incite. (Really? A Trump reference?) That just might positively impact Burlington reaction.

    • Stu Parr


      With all due respect, I believe that your response validates my comments. Thank you.

      • Colleen A

        Rose’s letter doesn’t even come close to validating your points Stu. You only think so because that’s you want to see. As she said the only thing closing schools does is allow funding from the province for new schools. That’s it. Not for Administrative offices or anything else. In case you haven’t noticed, Milton’s population is exploding. They’re going to need new schools there. As for the sensitivity/timing of this announcement (as you put it), not everybody in Burlington thinks that closing Bateman & Pearson was a bad idea. In fact, I know residents from southeast Burlington that are happy their students needs are finally going to be met at Nelson. It seems that Pearson has accepted the decision. It’s high time for Bateman (and supporters) to do the same.

        • Stu Parr


          You both miss my point – and that’s probably because I didn’t make it as clearly as I should have. I am mainly commenting on the timing of the proposal not on it’s inherent merits, although I believe that the latter are really very few. I am well aware of the wonderful intricacies of MoED funding but, as Mr. White explains, the days of dedicated, funded capital projects for administrative operations are fading fast. The HDSB needs to look at new, less costly and more efficient models of operation. I am also aware of the growing needs of Milton and Oakville. The regional nature of our education construct presents both advantages and disadvantages. However, one of the interesting features of our current work environment is the physical mobility of people in senior public service positions. Have you noticed how many of the city’s senior bureaucrats, including Mr. Miller, do not live in the community to which they provide service?

          • Colleen A

            Hi Stu,
            I was responding to your comment “…Director Miller and entourage should be hands down favourites for the 2018 Donald Trump Sensitivity and Political Timing award”. This comment shows you assume that everyone is upset with/disagrees with the decision the Board made and that plans to build a new Administrative building is insensitive. My point is that not everyone was upset by the decision to close the schools…a fact that was made very clear to Director Miller & the trustees by myself and many parents like me. It would stand to reason that they could make a decision like this knowing they have support.

            While I agree that the HDSB needs to look at cost saving measures, I hear what Rose is saying about the difficulties of working in those conditions…and I will take the word of someone who worked there day in & day out and has hands on knowledge of what it’s like to work in that building.

            In response to your final question…no, I haven’t noticed. Having said that, I’d say a couple of things: HDSB services a large area. Does he live in one of the other communities serviced by the Board? And even if he isn’t, sometimes better, more rational decisions are made by someone who is able to step back and look at the whole picture from the outside. Especially financial decisions that have a lot of emotion attached to them.

          • Stu Parr

            Hi Colleen:

            Fair points and I respect your opinion. We just agree to differ. I accept that distance (emotional and otherwise) can lead to increased objectivity. I still prefer the perspective that comes with living in the community that you serve where your clients are your neighbours and you live with the impacts of your decisions. However, I agree that it’s a double-edged sword. I believe that Mr. Miller hails from Toronto (I could be wrong) and many of our City Hall senior bureaucrats (excluding Mr. Ridge) live outside the city. This probably would not be even a speaking point for me if I agreed with the our current direction on downtown development, intensification and service provision generally. It is a subjective reaction but still has some value.

      • Ken

        Rose; the point that Stu has made (I find) is that the whole HDSB is interested in policy over outcomes.

        The polices you speak of were meant to discipline administrators not lead to unintended consequences. Can anyone say that the policies are working in these instances? Can anyone say the policies anticipate all of the circumstances?

        These circumstances require some flexibility and adjudication. And if the existing funding formula or policy comes under scrutiny and revision; so be it!

    • Stephen White

      Hi Rose. Did you ever wonder why the six major chartered banks in Canada lease their office space and don’t actually own their Head Office premises? Because it’s cheaper in the long run to sign a long-term lease. Bank executives aren’t stupid, and they know how to save money.

      Similarly, when Siemens built their new head office in Oakville they closed five satellite offices in Stoney Creek, Burlington, Mississauga and Brampton, and amalgamated all the operations in Oakville. That office is effectively the home base for nearly 3,000 Siemens’ employees….but there are only spaces for 840 employees. Why? Because many of their staff work from home. When they have meetings they connect via webinars, teleconferences, etc. They physically come into work once a week for face-to-face meetings.

      The Halton Catholic District School Board is housed in a much worse building on Drury Lane. I don’t hear them advocating for a new facility, and that building is a whole lot worse than the Singleton Centre.

      The cost savings associated with working remotely, leasing space, and other cost-savings measures need to be applied to the HDSB. There is a major paradigm shift underway in the workplace, and public sector organizations like HDSB and their management need to “get with the agenda”. And if senior management at HDSB can’t accede to public feedback on this issue then it’s high time they got replaced too.

  • Stephen White

    This proposal is beyond ridiculous and shows a complete lack of concern for the current political environment, not to mention a total lack of respect for public finances and taxpayers.

    We are not talking here about the building of a facility or the provision of services that will directly benefit students or teachers. We are talking about building an edifice for people in staff support functions. To use metrics around the number of students in the Region, the number of teachers employed, or the fact that HDSB is a large employer, as part of a business case to justify this facility is not only misleading but disingenuous. Just because the Halton Regional Police have a new facility is no justification for the Board to spend in excess of $23 million for a nice new complex. I have been in the current facility, and I’ve seen the pictures posted in this article, and truly, it isn’t that bad and I’ve seen and worked in a lot worse.

    If the Board needs additional space, either: 1) promote work at home for existing employees who are not in public facing roles; or 2) rent it in one of the many commercial buildings in the City. Spending $23 million while simultaneously closing two high schools sends entirely the wrong message. Like the OP, Mobility Hubs and downtown redevelopment, this issue is going to become a lightning rod in the municipal election. I am hoping Board trustees are reading the Gazette and heeding the comments posted here.

  • Stu Parr

    With all due concern for the details of the business case for a new Halton District School Board administration building, Director Miller and entourage should be hands-down favourites for the 2018 Donald Trump Sensitivity and Political Timing Award. How you can intuitively reconcile closing two schools because of projected declining enrolment then undertake this extensive capital project on the justification of an expanding business is completely beyond me. At the least, was any consideration given to using either the Lester B. Pearson or Robert Bateman sites and facilities? And just for the record, use of existing owned property is not a “savings”, it is a ‘cost avoidance’ – two entirely different things in the world of cost-justification.

    • Phillip

      Stu, I have to agree. The optics of this decision are very poor–leadership by example is not part of tool-kit. And I wonder what the benefits of this decision are? George Love, former owner of the Barn Fruit Markets, called this “head-office disease” in which executives/educrats are very good at carving out little niche empires for themselves but what real value is there to their initiatives at the level that really counts, consumers–in this case, students. A close friend of mine who taught in the Halton system for 26 years has noted that nothing of any significance ever emanated from Guelph Line–excellence in education begins and ends with an outstanding teacher. Perhaps too we should heed the words of Warren Buffett who noted that managers in high cost organizations seemed to have no problem spending more money on the bureaucracy.

    • VaKe

      The declining enrollment is in Burlington. The growth and expanding business is Milton. This is “Halton”.

  • Cheryl

    Wow is all I could say to this. Talk about irresponsible spending. Hasn’t the school board and the board of trustees destroyed Burlington by closing two amazing high schools yet they’re going to Waste $32 million on a new school administrative building. I have an idea why don’t they take the 12 portables which will be going up to 18 portables at Hayden and put that at the school board head office if these portables and portable learning is good enough for the students it’s certainly good enough for the administration staff. I am appalled at the Halton district school board and their irrresponsible spending