By Chris Bolton –
Much was written during the budget discussions earlier this year about a motion from one of the Toronto school trustees on the need to create cash for new projects by closing and selling schools. This motion was a simplistic view that often finds its way into the budget deficit fights at the school boards.
And it avoids discussion about a few facts and a clear vision of public education. Toronto District School Board (TDSB) has always declared it position to be about life-long learning—that a basic tenet of our vision of education. So, even if we agree that the number of kindergarten to grade 12 students is declining, the general population in the affected areas is not and therefore, based upon our vision adult education strategies are important for the TDSB to remember. Why are we not re-purposing the facilities that have fewer younger students for those older ones to have services for which they pay taxes?
The assumption of the motion presented was that the TDSB would look at “low enrolment” schools and simply close those schools. But not all school buildings are equal. Some schools have newer and better facilities, but in “low enrolment” areas. Some schools have recently been upgraded with windows, boilers and other updates—and now we would close them? Some schools represent the only green space in the neighbourhood and therefore are a neighbourhood hub. And, if the city passes the new rules on family housing our area, then we don’t know what the effect will be on enrolment of younger students. So simplistic answers do not resolve the issues, but get us into the same situation as one area of the city that now sees itself growing but sold off its property in years past; hence they are now bussing students away from their neighbourhoods.
Schools belong to the communities in which they are situated for all these reasons and are the reason people choose a particular community in which live.
They are a community asset and should not be considered expendable by those who sit in distant offices with only money in their eyes.