School council representatives are rejoicing in the wake of the Ontario Ministry of Education’s announcement of an $8.2 million funding injection announced last week, for additions at Keele Street Jr. P.S. and Swansea Jr. and Sr. P.S.
The funding is in addition to the $2.6 million in full-day kindergarten capital funding for the two schools, according to ministry spokesperson Andrew Morrison. The local investment is part of a more than $700 million plan to build and renovate 87 schools across Ontario to alleviate the “accommodation pressures,” while expanding and renovating in preparation for the roll-out of full-day kindergarten.
Ministry funding decisions were based on which projects had the most urgent and pressing needs in the next three years and also the ones that supported the ministry’s priorities, noted Morrison.
Keele P.S. will see a $3.4 million 10-classroom addition and retrofit, which includes two rooms for full-day kindergarten, to facilitate a change in grades from JK to Grade 6 to JK to Grade 8 to alleviate overcrowding at nearby schools; Swansea P.S. will see a $5 million, 14-classroom addition, including six full-day kindergarten rooms, to accommodate growth in the area and alleviate pressure at neighbouring schools.
“The ministry will work with the board to ensure that these projects and other projects related to full-day kindergarten can proceed in a timely manner,” said Morrison.
“We are quite happy,” Robin Pilkey, co-chair of Swansea Public School’s parent council told The Villager Monday, Jan. 21. “We’re very happy (the renovations) are going to go forward. We’re getting the design committee going. It’ll be a long time until the doors open, but we got this far so we’re pleased.”
Pilkey was part of a group of representatives from area school councils who made appeals to the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and the ministry to address the issue of overcrowding in Ward 7 by releasing the funding necessary to implement the additions. The group lobbied its local MPs, MPPs and city councillors for support and worked to generate public awareness.
“Of course we’re delighted,” said Parkdale-High Park MPP Cheri DiNovo of the ministry’s announcement. “It’s great that they listened.”
Additions at Keele and Swansea public schools were recommended and approved by the TDSB last June only to be put on hold by the Ministry of Education in the fall. The ministry says it had planned to make funding announcements for approved projects in the fall of 2012, but were delayed.
“It’s been a bit of a see-saw,” DiNovo admitted . “They promised it originally and we thought the money was coming. Then, we heard it wasn’t. That’s when we got really active. I think this is a significant victory for the community. It’s wonderful. Everything we did, it paid off.”