As many of you know, this week the Toronto District School Board completed its response to the Minister of Education’s recent Directives.
With a one month timeline to comply, it was no easy task, but we pulled together, and dealt with all necessary business with a few days to spare.
Thank you to all who took the time to participate in my community consultations, filled out the survey, wrote letters and shared your concerns via social media. I did my best to take your comments, ideas and perspectives into account throughout.
You are also likely aware that the most challenging issue before us at the TDSB now relates to the issue of school closures.
At the February 10th board meeting, a list of schools in our area was included for information by TDSB staff, at the last minute, for a Pupil Accommodation Review Committee or PARC (also sometimes called an ARC). You can see my comments in the media on this matter here.
A PARC is the process, mandated by the Ministry of Education, to determine what would happen IF a program or school is relocated, amalgamated or removed from the system, and what effect that would have on the surrounding family of schools. In other words, PARC’s are comprised of “under-utilized” schools and schools at, near or even over capacity.
The proposed PARC for our area of the city includes: Danforth Collegiate and Technical Institute, East York CI and East York Alternative Secondary School, Eastdale CI, Eastern Commerce CI and Subway Academy 1, Greenwood Secondary School and School of Life Experience (SOLE), Monarch Park CI, Riverdale CI.
There are ten secondary schools in total on this list. Three of them are alternative schools housed within operating schools (East York Alternative shares space with East York CI; SOLE shares space with Greenwood and Subway I shares space with Eastern).
This PARC has yet to be approved by the TDSB. Assuming that happens this spring, the consultation phase is unlikely to happen before the fall.
My number one job is to serve and represent the needs of this community’s students and families. I will do everything I can to ensure the process for this PARC is fair, the necessary information is made available, and all voices are heard.
It is my personal belief that our school buildings are vital community assets, and should be protected as such. In a city that is expected, according to the province’s own growth plan, to see 700,000 more residents settle within our city limits, we need to ensure we have the space to educate our children, not just now but for the foreseeable future. We also need to be certain that we don’t lose publicly owned buildings that can and do currently serve many other purposes, like adult ESL, international language learning, child-care and after school programming, seniors recreational activities and much more. These additional school uses can be a lifeline for members of our community. And finally, we need to ensure the protection of green spaces that wrap around our schools, particularly in areas of the city that are park-deficient.
That is why I am happy to share with you the outcome of City Hall’s recent deliberations on its own set of motions relating to looming school closures. Mayor John Tory made these related items a priority and in the end Council voted overwhelmingly in support of motions put forward by Councillor Mike Layton and Gary Crawford, the City's Budget Chief calling on the province to fix the flaws in how it calculates a school’s “utilization rate” – the measure of how full a school is.
In addition, Councillors Paula Fletcher (Toronto-Danforth) and Janet Davis (Beaches-East York) received unanimous support for their motion to ensure that no childcare spaces are lost as we explore how to best utilize our school spaces.
At the local level, a number of east-end parents and residents are coming together to discuss the impact school closures might have on our community and our city, and how to respond. If you are interested in joining them, they are meeting on Wednesday, February 18 at Eastview Community Centre, 86 Blake Street, at 7pm.
Finally I hope you’ll join me in thanking Maxeen Paabo, my Constituency Assistant for these last two months for her incredible hard work, talent and good humour.
I will be sharing more about all of this and will answer any questions you may have at my upcoming Ward Council meeting, coming up on Tuesday, February 17 at 7pm at Frankland Community School, 816 Logan Avenue. I hope to see you there.