A local New Democrat MPP is taking the Ford government to task over a funding freeze for improvements at London-area schools following a power outage this week at a north London elementary school.
Masonville Public School has about 600 students but was originally built for 230. In order to accommodate its growing population, the school has 14 portables on the property on Hillview Boulevard in the city’s north end.
After years of waiting, the elementary school was tapped for $5.9 million in funding to bankroll a much-needed expansion. The renovations at Masonville P.S. were to be funded under the Capital Priorities Grant program. Then, after last spring’s provincial election, the funding was put on hold.
The new Progressive Conservative government cancelled Ontario’s cap and trade program that was funding a $100 million repair fund set up by the previous Liberal regime.
As a result, Masonville P.S. and many other schools across Ontario were left with no timeline for when their upgrades would take place.
The school has been making do, but on Monday when frigid temperatures blasted the region and prompted an extreme cold weather warning from Environment Canada, electricity in nine of its portables was offline.
As a result, staff shipped about 200 students inside to the already cramped main building for the day. The board’s facilities department said in a statement that maintenance team members and contractors made the necessary repairs after conducting on-site reviews.
“The parents were distressed, but ultimately they were quite supportive of the administration and the staff at Masonville Public School, who are phenomenal and quite frankly doing the best they can in a bad situation,” Terence Kernaghan, NDP MPP for London North Centre, told 980 CFPL.
“Right now, a school with 14 portables really should raise some eyebrows.”
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Kernaghan said he and his local NDP colleagues have brought the case forward during Question Period at Queen’s Park in the past.
“Teresa Armstrong, Peggy Sattler and myself stood and questioned this government on their decision to withhold that funding, to delay that funding,” he said, noting the Official Opposition New Democrats have been upset with the funding call.
“Right now they’re playing politics with our kids.”
Not knowing how long the province plans to continue the cash freeze after relief was on the horizon is infuriating, Kernaghan said.
“This is a process that’s taken years. The community has been waiting for such a long time and unfortunately Ford has decided to stop that funding for now.”
In a statement, Laura Elliott, the TVDSB’s director of education, said the board remained committed to providing “the very best learning conditions,” for students.
“However,” the statement continues, “the Board also recognizes that the Ontario government is facing difficult economic conditions and is carefully reviewing a wide range of spending priorities – including class sizes and teacher hiring practices.”
In its statement, the TVDSB facilities department said the board has been maintaining communication and has been working closely with staff at the Ministry of Education.
The Ministry of Education has not responded to 980 CFPL’s request for comment.
Kernaghan said he believes this issue will be addressed at the Thames Valley District School Board’s next school council meeting and that school board trustees have been invited.
Updated with statement from the Thames Valley District School Board.