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 with two new classrooms is already being built at Maurice Cody and will be ready by the 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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