Repair backlog at Toronto schools leaves children vulnerable
TORONTO – Hundreds of schools in Toronto are in need of repair but a $3 billion backlog is preventing problems from being fixed.
Parents blame the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) for work not being done but the board says it’s the fault of the Ontario government for not providing enough funding.
“Unfortunately we only get a limited amount of capital funding each year,” the TDSB’s Executive Officer for Facilities Services, Angelos Bacopoulos said.
“The limited funds that we get really don’t allow us to cut into that backlog at all.”
The roofs on the portables at Secord Elementary School are set to be replaced next week after reoccurring problems with mould and water leaks.
Parents of students in Grades 2 and 3 at the school aren’t satisfied after years of temporary fixes. They want the portables to be replaced altogether.
“It’s in the building and they haven’t removed our students,” parent Heather Tormey said.
“We’re really, really concerned about the effect that has on their health.”
Minister of Education Liz Sandals said that $1.4 million has been allotted for the TDSB in the 2014 budget to assist with repairs and maintenance.
“They don’t have to apply to the province to get approval for individual portables,” she said. “We’re not in the business of approving individual portables.”
Teachers have also raised concerns with the repair backlog. Many feel it creates an unsafe place to work and a poor learning environment as well.
“We ask and we complain and we discuss and they fix the situation but it’s a bigger problem,” John Smith, President of the Elementary Teachers of Toronto, said. “It’s a core systemic problem from our point of view.”
“Changing enrolment and the size of buildings” are also contributing factors, he said.
The TDSB said air quality tests have recently been completed at Secord Elementary School and there are no health concerns for teachers and students there at this time.
Those in charge of repairs to facilities throughout Toronto say there are hundreds of examples just like it.
“It’s basically a numbers game,” Bacopoulos said. “I don’t have sufficient funding. I have other schools that are coming to me and saying ‘Please come and do our school!'”
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