Avondale Public School suffers a setback as ministry freezes building funds

A ministry-imposed freeze on Toronto school board capital projects could have major repercussions on a North York school struggling with overcapacity.

Avondale Public School in the Yonge Street and Sheppard Avenue area had hoped to gain provincial approval to build a larger school by 2014, demolish Avondale’s current building, and then reconfigure school boundaries to distribute more students to other local schools such as Hollywood, Finch, McKee and Lillian.

But now that [url=]the province has frozen capital projects[/url] in light of reported cost overruns at Nelson Mandela Park Public School, Willowdale trustee Mari Rutka is concerned the situation for North York schools will reach a tipping point.

“The east side of Yonge Street is like a pressure cooker right now,” Rutka said. “Now, because they’ve put this delay on it, I don’t know if we’re going to have that school by 2014.

“It’s not looking very promising.”

Avondale has recently installed a fourth classroom portable to deal with a growing student body of 445 in an area of recent high-rise condominium construction.

Almost all the elementary and secondary schools in the area are at or over capacity, resulting in many kids having to be bussed to schools out of the area. Rutka said.

“McKee reached a point where it could not take any more kids. We wanted to put up (more) portables, but the playground space was so small, there was barely any place for 700 kids to go at lunch time and during breaks.”

Rutka has been continually told there is nothing the ministry can do because their funding formula says they cannot fund new projects while schools in other parts of the city are still under capacity, she said.

“I feel extremely disappointed and really puzzled as to why the province doesn’t see the urgency and intensity of the situation in this area,” Rutka said. “There is no other place in the city, or in Ontario, that has an area like this.”

Willowdale, in which Avondale is located, is considered one of the city’s most populous and fastest-growing areas.

Rutka accuses the province of using Willowdale as a pawn, saying they won’t give capital funds to build schools in North York until they fix the situation downtown.

“The province just doesn’t seem interested in finding a solution [for Willowdale],” Rutka said.

“I just hope we’ve got a solution by [2014], because I really don’t know what we’ll do if we don’t.”