Parents from five East York schools followed up a rally last week by appealing to the Toronto District School Board to prioritize much-needed funding for their schools.
More than 100 parents of students from Secord, Parkside, George Webster, Crescent Town and D.A. Morrison schools packed a recent TDSB meeting, causing it to be moved to a larger room.
Group representatives, as well as Beaches-East York Councillor Janet Davis, addressed the board, highlighting the schools’ needs.
Peter Saros, co-chair of Secord Public School’s parent council, spoke on behalf of the school and group.
“Our needs, in our opinion, have been ignored far too long,” Saros said. “We’re at 108 per cent over capacity, others are at 125 per cent over capacity. They’re in old, old, old portables; between George Webster and Secord, they’re the oldest portables in the city and they’re literally rotting.”
There are 36 portables at the two schools, some separate and some connected in “port-a-pacs.” Portables are sometimes unusable, due to decay and raccoon infestations. Some are said to be filled with a stench possibly caused by dead raccoons in the walls or floors.
Saros said the problems aren’t limited to the schools’ portables.
“You walk into rooms and ceiling tiles are missing, there’s unfinished drywall, moulding’s peeling off, there’s water stains, there’s probably mold and mildew in the walls, they smell,” he explained.
“There could be legitimate health concerns, and they’re not getting better.”
With the schools in need of repairs and overflowing with children, Secord Public School is set to welcome scores of new students when full-day kindergarten debuts there in 2014.
Over-population at George Webster Elementary School was exacerbated by the introduction of full-day kindergarten at Crescent Town Public School. With Crescent Town already filled over capacity, the school had nowhere to house the new students, forcing it to send students from its highest grade, Grade 5, to George Webster.
As Parkside Elementary School faces a potential closure, parents of students there worry their children will be transferred to D.A. Morrison Middle School, which does not have facilities to serve the younger students.
Parents from all five schools appealed in solidarity for funding, concerned their schools are being neglected, following funding announcements for renovations and additions at other Toronto schools. Saros said board members seemed frustrated by the appeals, telling the group it should be approaching the province, which controls the board’s capital funding. Though the province controls the purse strings, the group believes the board can influence which projects are prioritized for funding.
“The Toronto school board approved $70 million to address long standing capital needs for these schools, and the provincial government put a freeze on it,” Davis said.
“I think the school board though needs to say very clearly, we still stand behind those priorities, and we stand behind investment money in these schools. And I think that the point was made clearly last week that our community won’t let them walk away from their obligations to represent our needs.”
She added she’s proud of the parents for standing up for their schools, which she said have been overlooked for too long.
“The parents in our community feel betrayed by both the school board and the provincial government,” she said. “We need to get rid of the portables and ensure that our kids get the same quality of school and education experience as others in this city ... If there isn’t real change made, the credibility of this provincial government and the school board will be dashed.”
Saros said the group, which has also circulated petitions, will keep fighting for funding, and will likely consider a letter-writing campaign to the province as its next step.
“It’s our turn,” he said. “We’ve waited long enough.”