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School Design Guidelines

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Update (June, 2021): Design guidelines under revision and some sections of the posted guidelines are no longer applicable as they do not reflect the current needs of HWDSB. 

At the January 14, 2013 Committee of the Whole meeting, staff presented the Long-Term Facilities Master Plan which included the origin of the Educational Design Manuals for both elementary and secondary schools. These manuals were initiated as a detailed guideline for implementing school design for new school construction.

Since 2013, the Ministry of Education space templates have been revised, and the alignment to benchmark space and budget is now mandated. As a result, the Design Guidelines initiated in 2013 have been revised to reflect the current needs of HWDSB.

In June 2015, Program Committee also identified a need for a Design Manual (Guideline) that would be developed to provide a framework and specific guidelines for the design of the new elementary schools in the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board and to assist in the planning and development of the additions and alterations for the existing elementary schools.

The purpose of the Architectural Design Guideline is two-fold: to create a framework and set of guiding principles to enable all of HWDSB’s facilities, both new and existing, to better support new trends in educational delivery and enhance opportunities for student success; and to provide a guideline for the Board’s new and improved school facilities to ensure that program strategies can meet the needs of all students in the 21st Century including providing students with safe, inclusive, innovative and engaging school environments.

Both the Elementary and Secondary Design Guidelines respond to the needs identified above.

HWDSB Elementary School Design Guidelines HWDSB Secondary School Design Guidelines

The new elementary school design guideline aligns with key educational principles and values envisioned by the Board. The design guidelines respond to the current and future needs, unanticipated changes in pedagogy, curriculum, technology and learning expectations. The guideline accommodates a robust enough framework to adapt to specific programming requirements, the community needs and diverse existing site issues. School construction will align with Provincial funding parameters. The design guideline includes input from the school community including educators, caretaking and maintenance personnel.

Elementary School Design Guidelines

The development of new performance-based Design Guideline for transforming Hamilton Wentworth District School Board’s secondary schools is both a timely and critical challenge. The context of this work, a response to the Board’s documents Secondary Education of the Future and the HWDSB Secondary Program Strategy, reinforces its relevancy and urgency for HWDSB. Changing demographics and declining enrolments have resulted in plans for school consolidation and a strategic reconsideration of schools across the entire Board. The HWDSB maintains a moderate secondary school inventory, with the majority of its ageing schools requiring upgrades and costly repairs to meet curricular demands and day-to-day operations. Added to these significant financial and scheduling challenges are other critical and emerging issues of new curriculum and program delivery strategies, which need to be physically accommodated and resolved in each HWDSB school.

These include:

  • student engagement
  • wellness
  • universal design (accessibility)
  • special education delivery for personalized learning
  • sustainability
  • the integration of, and possibilities for, technological change to teaching and learning strategies.

Secondary School Design Guidelines


Updated on Tuesday, June 29, 2021.
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