TDSB to close 8 schools

Arlington MS among eight sites to shut
Board also approved improvements for local sites
Plus Davisville’s possible redevelopment discussed in Jan
By Kris Scheuer
(Written June 24 for Town Crier. Revised June 25.)

TDSB voted June 23 to close eight schools. File pic.

The TDSB voted last night to close eight schools, including Arlington MS.
McCowan Rd, Pringdale Gardens, Heron Park, Peter Secor, Silverthorn Jr., Brooks Rd and Kent Sr schools will also close starting in 2011, saving the board about $2 million a year in operating funds.
Plus, the board will save millions more in capital repairs and upgrades, trustee Josh Matlow said.
“The reality is the Toronto District School Board has declining enrolment of 4,000 to 5,000 students a year for several years,” the St. Paul’s trustee said. “The fewer students in the system, the fewer dollar the province gives the system.”
It costs the same for the board to heat and clean a half empty school as a full one, so scarce resources could be better spent by consolidating facilities and reinvesting money into remaining sites, Matlow said this morning.
While Arlington will close, four other area schools — J.R Wilcox, Cedarvale, Humewood and Rawlington — will all expand to grade 8 to accommodate area students.
But it’s not all about closures.
The board voted to spend about $4 million on improvements to Davisville, Maurice Cody, Eglinton, Hodgson and Spectrum Alternative.
There was fear in the community that this wouldn’t happen.
Board staff, parents, residents and school officials had spent months meeting on how to expand and improve programs and facilities at these sites, but May 31 a TDSB committee voted against the idea.
But when the trustees met June 23, the recommendations were approved with a 19-1 vote.
“They approved everything I was hoping for and more,” Matlow said after the vote.
An addition to the school consisting of two new classrooms is already being built at Maurice Cody and will be ready this fall. Now the board will spend some even more on building even more capacity at the school.
“In September, a design committee of the principal, staff and community will meet on what that should look like,” said Matlow June 25. “The community didn’t want the catchment area changed, but the kids aren’t going anywhere so they need to be accommodated.”
Hodgson will have a community design team look at a retrofit or expansion. Spectrum Alternative could move from Eglinton school to the Davisville site.
Plus the Eglinton school will get a new playground and, despite previous indications the community would need to chip in, it will be paid for fully by the board.
“We are building a new, state-of-the-art playground and parents won’t have to fundraise a dime for it,” Matlow says.
Then there’s the issue of redeveloping the Davisville site. Nothing has been decided and no proposal is on the table yet, but the issue will be discussed starting in January.
“What will happen is a community design team will meet to discuss the school board’s proposal to redevelop a portion of the property,” explains Matlow. “From what I’ve heard from the community they want to hear what the school board wants to do, why they want to do it. A clear business case to do it and how it will benefit the community.”
The board staff hasn’t presented what kind of development it will contemplate at the Davisville site, but he says a mid-rise of 8-10 storeys may be appropriate.
“Either as a trustee or an elected councillor, I will only support something that’s mutually agreed upon,” said Matlow, who is now a St. Paul’s council candidate.
“If parents and the residential community aren’t on board, I can’t support (redevelopment).”
Director of Education Chris Spence and Sheila Penny, in charge of facility management, have given assurances that there will be a memorandum of understanding before anything is finalized.
“If one party doesn’t sign on, there won’t be a redevelopment,” Matlow said.

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4 responses to “TDSB to close 8 schools

  1. Thank you for your answer, Kris.
    FYI
    The 60 million I mention is the money to be SPENT on adding new capacity to ‘receiving’ schools to accommodate students relocated by 8 school closures. The number is not ‘my understanding’ – it’s a number from the 394-million Capital Plan the Board was studying for tw0 (!) long days. I don’t remember any 60 millions to define the ‘savings’ from 8 school closures. Usually the only definite estimate of the ‘savings’ is mentioned as modest 2 million in operating costs.
    The number of deferred maintenance costs is being inflated every year by the inadequate provincial funding formula that the Premier promised to review in the fall of 2010.
    ‘Capital expenses for repairs that now won’t have to be done’ are now estimated at 2.8 billion. We can’t raise the amount of money even by selling all of the Toronto schools.
    Clearly, the ‘let’s sell what we can’ strategy lacks any long-term vision. It creates the illusion of fixing some parts of the system at the expense of destroying other parts.

    • Yuliya,
      yes. I was told that the TDSB will save $60 mil by not having to pay for operating costs for the 8 schools or for capital repairs. I wasn’t told over what period the board will save that $60 mil but it’s about $2 mil a year, And yes they will reinvest that same $60 mil back into open schools.
      The $2 million I mention in my story, if I understood trustee Matlow correctly, is just the amount reinvested in the Davisville community where no schools are closing but they are seeing improvements.
      But I will check with and confirm that today.

  2. Dear Kris Scheuer and Trustee Matlow,
    Thank you very much for the update about the results of June 23 Board of Trustees meeting.
    It does not, however, reflect the reality as much as it claims.
    Yes, the closures will bring savings of two millions, but the board is spending at least 60 million on adding more space to the ‘receiving’ schools.
    Is this fact too inconvenient to even mention?
    They say that we have to get rid of the ‘surplus space’, but they approve a wasteful spending to add new capacity.
    The declining enrollment is mentioned every time they are trying to justify a school closure.
    The actual enrollment statistics for the past year shows that TDSB had an increase of 4,000 students compared to what was expected.
    Is it another fact the board is trying to hide from the public?
    For some incomprehensible reason, nobody from the board speaks about how easy it is to attract new students by adding a high-in-demand program – Davisville Public School with its newly-added French immersion is just one example.
    Attracting new students that now go to other boards looking for a higher-quality education is the best way to get more money from the province under the current funding formula. Closing a school and selling it makes the board incapable to ever increase the enrollment and secure more funding.
    Dear Trustee Matlow, you and almost all other trustees tell us about ‘consolidating facilities and reinvesting money into remaining sites’.
    Where is the population growth taken into account? Will the ‘remaining sites’ be sufficient to accommodate the students? If the board’s projections are so trustworthy, why do we get the signs in the city saying that “due to residential growth, … students may be accommodated in schools outside this area…”
    The board is legging so far behind in its estimates, that its June 2010 committee agendas on school closures do NOT even bother to reflect the full-day kindergarten program being implemented throughout the province.
    The fact proves the board was determined to proceed with the school closures without paying attention to the community needs, and even ignoring the decisions of its own Ministry of Education.
    Dear Ms. Scheuer, nowhere in your article you mentioned there were hundreds of people protesting in front of the TDSB on the day of the voting. A petition asking the board to freeze school closures was signed by 2000 parents and was presented to the board. All this, for some reason, turns out to be not important enough to make it to the lines of you reputable paper.
    I would like to ask why? Just because the facts are not positive enough?
    It says the newspaper’s mission is ‘community news – stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things, people helping people, setting trends, making their communities better places for all.’
    Do we have to hide the fact that the improvements our privileged community is getting come from denying the same improvements to other less fortunate areas in Toronto, from closing and selling somebody’s neighbourhood school?
    Some call it ‘the business approach’. It looks more like a business liquidator’s approach.
    It is obvious that the board’s focus is on raising money through the sales of facilities, not on creating the added value through developing a high-quality product.
    Are taxpayers ready to swallow the self-destruction pill?
    Voters will have a say on it next fall.
    We pay for the the right to be informed, not misinformed or under-informed.

    • Yuliya,
      thanks for your comments. I have covered parents and residents opposed to the recommendations for Briar Hill PS (not mentioned in this story), Davisville PS and Arlington MS. No I did not cover the protests at the TDSB headquarters as I was not there. I wanted to get an article on the web to let people know about the decisions. I plan to get reaction for the Town Crier’s print editions. In terms of the $2 million in investments, my understanding is that will be just in the Davisville community. The overall $60 million in savings from closing eight schools will come because it will save the TDSB on operating costs and also capital expenses for repairs that now won’t have to be done. My understanding is that $60 mil will be reinvested in schools that remain open. So I understand there will be $60 million in total savings and the same amount reinvested overall but $2 million of that in the Davisville area…
      When I do my updated stories for print, that I will post here after they are edited, I hope to have more reaction and answers.
      Miss Kris Scheuer

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