Sunday, November 1, 2009

Toronto ARC coverage ramps up

Caught this in a news alert earlier this week, regarding the various school communities in the Toronto District School Board getting ready for the accommodation reviews that are about to begin looking at the future of 37 schools in the city. The Globe and Mail posted this Monday, accompanied by an opinion piece by Marcus Gee.
As I've posted here before, it's about freakin' time Toronto starts looking at its enrolment v. capacity. It continues to have the highest percentage of empty space in its schools in all of Ontario, but has been coddled over the years as its trustees refused to engage the issue. From the article:
Don Higgins, TDSB executive officer of business services, says the board is faced with few financial alternatives: As enrolment drops and per-child funding sinks with it, the board finds itself covering the pricey operating cost of its facilities by slicing other budget areas.
“People will argue a small school is a good school but it's just sheer numbers. The ministry could open the funding model and start funding on a more expansive basis, but that's not going to happen.”
Junior/Senior Kindergarten class at Diefenbaker Elementary School in Toronto.
The TDSB has long been cited as the city's largest property-holder, and if it does choose to close schools, selling the property they stand on could be extremely lucrative.
School closures are sometimes a necessary evil, says Annie Kidder, executive director of the People for Education advocacy group. But they're often indicative of skewed funding formulas more than a decade out of date with student needs.
“There's a possibility that some of the schools that are going to close over the next couple of years maybe could have stayed open if we didn't have this disconnect.”

This will be, as I've said before, instructive. Toronto communities will start to experience what the rest of the province has spent the last two school years living, and the rest of us will be reminded that small and rural schools don't have an exclusive claim to the community that exists in every school. Every school closure, regardless of size, location, urban/rural etc. is one that affects communities-- the key is ensuring the positives of closure, consolidation, renovation, expansion and modernization outweigh the costs of closure.
This could be a real opportunity for the TDSB and its communities to begin revitalizing their facilities and programs and bring as many school learning environments as possible into this century. Let's hope that goal remains in sight.


Anonymous said...

ER - we can bet that the TDSB school reviews will get more than their lion's share of ink too.

I wonder what they've been doing all these years while other boards have been getting on with the job?

Did we ever get close to finding out how many rural/small town schools have closed in comparison to the larger urban schools? That would be an interesting statistic to see.

educ8m said...

The TDSB really dragged its collective feet on this one--probably because they didn't have a Director who could do anything.

Funny though, the Toronto Catholic Board, without the aid of trustees, managed to complete all of its AR's over a year ago. They are now waiting for the Minister to decide what to do with their recommendations.

Education Reporter said...

Anon 1 Nov. 14:28
I would hope as an education reporter the pending reviews get tonnes of ink, but I'm doubtful. I'm sure there will be coverage, including some very easy to predict coverage, but I don't see pages and pages and pages-- simply because that hasn't happened elsewhere across the province. I also predict there will be little comprehensive analysis of why schools are being reviewed other than bums-in-seats counts.

That said, I reject the premise of small/rural and large/urban. Many of the schools under review in Toronto are small-population schools or older facilities-- same as they are/were in rural Ontario. Small schools are not exclusive to rural geography-- they exist everywhere.

See the next post for more.