Protecting Our Schools: Open Letter to East End Parents

Since the provincial government first told the TDSB to close schools over 15 years ago, we have worked together and with you to keep schools open, save school pools, and maintain schools as hubs in our community.

Once again, the Ontario government is calling for wholesale closure of schools in Toronto. There will be impacts: 53 child care centres and over 3000 spaces in jeopardy; hundreds of adult learners and newcomers losing programs; and important public assets sold off.

Toronto schools are important centres of learning for students from infants to adults. In addition to instructional space and childcare centres, our schools house important community programs and provide green space and playgrounds that serve as urban parks.

The outdated and punitive funding formula approved in 1998 to determine school space must be changed if we are to maintain essential school-based community services in Toronto. The Ministry of Education determines the square-footage of school space required for the system based on pupil enrolment. These formulas also calculate how much so-called "surplus" space a school board has. Boards are expected to dispose of surplus space – at full market value -- to raise capital funds to pay for maintaining and building schools. Provincial capital grants are not provided to school boards with excess surplus space.

These formulas and calculations are short-sighted, and contrary to the "Schools First" policy for child care, which is now the responsibility of the Ministry of Education. Provincial policy going back to the 1980's has promoted, but never protected, child care space in schools. It's time to finally fix this problem.

The other obstacle to protecting school facilities for community and public use is Regulation 444. The requirement to pay or lease property at full market value is a barrier to municipalities or other community-based non-profit or government agencies re-purposing schools. This too must be fixed.

We are very concerned about this situation and have submitted a Notice of Motion to City Council for the February 10th meeting to identify child care centres at risk and develop a plan to save them.

In Toronto, we cannot stand still -- we must stand firm. Schools belong to all of us. Make your voice heard. Call or write your MPP to fix the school funding formula. Show your support for our Trustees working to keep schools as community hubs.

Sincerely,

Councillor Janet Davis Councillor Paula Fletcher
Want to take action on this issue? Click here to sign the "Save Our Schools!" petition now.
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