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You may have seen reports in the media regarding the list of underutilized TDSB schools and possible school closures that was produced as a result of the Minister's directives.
Please be aware that although a school appears on the list, this does not mean it will close. Any school closures or changes to programming or boundaries require a lengthy process of studies and consultations. School communities will be kept informed throughout this process.
Although there is a need to close some schools, the list, created using the Ministry of Education capacity ratings, is skewed. Its definition of "empty" space often includes space where students learn throughout the day. For example, Burnhamthorpe Adult Learning Centre (formerly Collegiate) is full with adults returning to school to finish their high school diploma, students with special needs, seniors taking general interest courses, and a daycare. But the Ministry-rated capacity does not count the adult and senior students in their capacity rating.
Schools, in whole or in part, that are leased out to the Catholic board, to government agencies, or to community programs, are often rated as "empty" space by the Ministry even though they are well used. Lunchrooms, art and music rooms in elementary schools are also counted as "empty" space.
The Ministry is pushing to close and sell Toronto Public Schools to address a portion of the $3 billion maintenance backlog in our schools. The board has closed 20 schools and sold 60 properties in recent years. We can, however, only take this strategy so far because we need to plan for the future. Our elementary enrolment is growing and this wave of growth will hit our high schools in 2017.
There are 180,000 condo and townhouse units under development in the city right now. The maintenance backlog was created in part because the Ministry gives Toronto public schools 5% of capital funding, although we have 12% of the students. Also, Toronto Catholic schools receive $840 in Education Development Charges for every condo and townhouse unit that goes up in the city, whereas Toronto Public Schools receive nothing.
Schools are owned by the taxpayers who paid for them and any decision about closing schools should be made in consultation with the community that owns it.
For more information, visit www.tdsb.on.ca/Leadership/WilsonReport