TDSB holds special meeting on school closures today

On Thursday, the Ontario government announced that once September comes, elementary students will be in the classroom five days a week while most secondary students will be in at least 50 per cent of the time. File / Getty Images

TORONTO – The Toronto District School Board will hold a special meeting Tuesday to discuss the fate of schools slated for closure as mandated by the province.

The school board faces an imposed deadline of Feb. 13 to present a three-year plan on school closures, including meeting provincial recommendations, following the release of a scathing report on its finances.

Part of the instructions included closing down schools which have a student capacity of 65 per cent or less.

A new Mainstreet Technologies poll conducted among 2,388 respondents on Feb. 8 found 61 per cent prefer converting schools to community centres and parks with 53 per cent supporting a municipal property tax increase to acquire them.

“It will be up to council to decide if those are costs they want to take on, not just in acquiring the properties and converting them but also if they are ready to pay for their continued upkeep and new programming,” said Mainstreet Technologies president Quito Maggi in a media release.

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The survey also says 56 per cent disapprove of the TDSB’s job performance while 53 per cent approve of their local trustee.

READ MORE: TDSB should consider age of neighbourhood kids before closing schools

Last week, board trustees voted to recommend selling four elementary schools that were already closed to raise much-needed funds for school repairs.

The board has since rounded up a list of 60 schools identified for closure or reorganization.

The Elementary School Teachers of Toronto (ETT), a union representing Toronto teachers, says the majority of the school closures are located in at-risk neighbourhoods and are considered “vibrant community hubs” for students and residents.

“These learners face the greatest external challenges to education because of economic and social disadvantages,” said ETT president John Smith in a media release.

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READ MORE: Falling enrolment numbers forces TDSB to look at closing schools

“Closing the schools and programs that support our most vulnerable students flies in the face of everything that the public education system stands for.”

Union leaders have organized a rally outside the school board’s head office to protest the closures ahead of the special meeting Tuesday evening.

Meanwhile, Toronto city councillor Mike Layton will present a motion to council Tuesday requesting the province suspend selling or closing any school property until it amends the formula on how it determines school utilization rates.

READ MORE: John Tory wants to be in the loop on TDSB school closures

The motion also encourages the province to take several factors into consideration when shutting down schools such as child care centre space and after-school programs located in high growth neighbourhoods and identified as “parks deficient.”

“The Province needs to take into consideration not only the number of students, but also the significance of the programming for students in need as well as the local community,” the motion states.

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