Kids need local schools, but TDSB sells them off

300x160-ChrisWhen my parents decided to purchase a house many decades ago, one of the deciding factors for moving into a community was the proximity of the schools in the area. And it was not only my family who took the area schools into consideration, but also many friends. For most people, I think, area schools are a major consideration.

When subdivisions were being built in the not-so-distant past, builders made provisions for schools and churches. Today, and especially in Toronto, condos are being built at a rapid rate and are clustered in small geographic pockets. The difference between then and now is that schools are no longer being built as more and more people move into these condo communities. Unsurprisingly, parents with young children are complaining that their kids have to be bussed out of their communities every day to attend school, even though there might be a school right across the street.

In parts of Toronto where condo clusters are being built, schools are bursting at the seams. Some have so many portables that the fields can’t be used for sporting activities. At McKee Public School near Yonge and Sheppard the gymnasium has been reduced to half its size in order for it to be used as a lunchroom. In that same school, an office is being used as the school library.

Despite the suffering of parents and their children, Toronto District School Board (TDSB) has closed and sold several schools throughout the city. These schools are located in prime locations and sold at fire-sale prices to builders who are like pigs at the trough.

So far, the TDSB has sold 58 schools and raised just $338 million in revenue from these sales.

The TDSB asserts that it needs to sell schools in order to raise money to build new schools. The board also claims that this revenue may be allocated to an estimated $3 bllion capital repair cost for existing schools. I’m dumbfounded by the absurdity of all of this.

This affects everyone, not just parents and kids. Schools are public and green spaces. A well-educated population keeps crime rates low. And when we need to invest in public education in the future, we will pay much more for land—probably from the same builders—to build schools or, worse, rent at an astronomically high cost.

The province, with the help of the TDSB, is sucking the oxygen out of our public schools.

I suspect that together they are creating a crisis in education that will eventually lead to further privatization within the system. This trend has been seen in other areas and we shouldn’t be surprised if the same thing happens in education.

Just around the corner from my home, TDSB sold a school. I only found out about the sale of the school after the deal was done. I pay school tax, but I heard of no public consultations about the sale.

Doing nothing is a disservice not only to communities across this city but, more importantly, we rob today’s young people of a proper space to learn, grow and excel.

If the province and the people truly believe in strong public education, then there are two things that must happen immediately.

First, allow the school board to tax, once again, so that it can pay its bills and provide an adequate learning environment. As taxpayers, we’d be entitled to use school spaces after school year-round, making our schools true community hubs.

Second, rather than selling school property, the school board can sell or auction off the approximately $500 million it has in artwork stored away at various schools and warehouses across the city. This one initiative may reduce the board’s capital costs by half. I, for one, would support this initiative by purchasing a piece of art myself — and I know many others who would join me in doing so.

Call or email your school-board trustee and insist that our public schools— our public spaces —aren’t for sale.