Seventy Toronto schools face chopping block

by | Mar 6, 2015 | News

Eric Wickham
Rexdale/North Etobicoke Reporter

The future of 70 Toronto public schools is up in the air.

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) released a list of nearly 70 schools a series of directives passed down from the province’s Ministry of Education.

One of the concerns from the province was how the school board intended to reduce underutilized space within schools.

According to the ministry, any school with enrolment under 65 per cent capacity is an underutilized space.

Elementary Teachers of Toronto (ETT), the local affiliate of the Elementary Teacher’s Federation of Ontario, has since released the names of 48 schools they believe are most likely to be closed.

Several of the listed schools are located in Ward 1, which is east of Highway 427, west of the Humber River, south of Steeles Avenue and north of Highway 401.

Braeburn Junior College and The Elms and Boys Leadership Academy are located only 10 minutes from Humber College North campus.

Ryan Bird, media coordinator for the Toronto District School Board, said these schools will undergo a three-year study that could result in boundary changes, program shifts or potential closures.

“It is not a closure list, you don’t face closure just because you’re on the list,” he said.

Bird said schools would be monitored in clusters, adding that decisions on schools would not be made in a vacuum.

“When we make a change in one school, it will affect the others,” he said.

Bird said that factors such as enrolment, transportation, program availability and projected growth would all be taken into consideration before closing a school. He added that the key is to find balance between underutilized Toronto schools,

“There’s a lot of I-don’t-knows about this,” said John Smith, president of ETT. “It’s very confusing as to what the directives are.”

He said closing schools would not solve problems with the TDSB, and closures could negatively impact the surrounding community.

Smith said that if all schools under 65 per cent capacity were to be listed, 138 would be named. He added that the TDSB is operating at 85 per cent capacity, and that 117 of approximately 600 schools were overcapacity.

Another concern Smith has is that approximately two thirds of the schools listed in the study are located within low income neighborhoods. He noted that small community schools in vulnerable parts of the city are very important because some students’ academic success relied on school accessibility.

“The ability to walk to their school can be the line between success and failure,” said Smith

Michael Ford, Ward 1’s TDSB school trustee, said he’s not in favor of closing schools within his ward. He added that those schools also act as community hubs in North Etobicoke.

Some schools in Ward 1 currently offer services such as daycare, senior’s classes, ESL, and adult learners classes.

“On the other side of the argument, it would be irresponsible for the board not to look at all the options,” said Ford. “If we have two schools that are underutilized, maybe we can look at merging them and closing one.”