Ontario faces increased pressure to help fix crumbling schools
Dario Balca, CTV Toronto
Published Monday, February 22, 2016 9:29PM EST
With the provincial budget just days away, the Ontario government is facing mounting pressure to address the urgent need for repairs and renovations at schools across the province.
Documents obtained by CTV News in January showed that nearly a quarter of the Toronto District School Board's 591 schools are ranked by the province in "critical" condition. The rating means the buildings need extensive renovations or replacements of core systems.
Now, grassroots organization Fix Our Schools says the Liberals need to make school infrastructure a priority in the upcoming budget. The organization is asking that the government allocate $1.7 billion “to fix the critical and urgent disrepair…that exists in our children’s schools.”
“Premier Wynne, is your government going to wait until Ontario’s schools reach a crisis point and schools need to be shut down?” co-founder Krista Wylie asked during a media event on Monday.
Fix Our Schools said there is a $15-billion capital repair backlog that the province needs to deal with.
The TDSB has confirmed that, in Toronto alone, the backlog is $3.3-billion.
“Issues that need to be addressed include schools plagued with water damage, leading to mould because those roofs are not being repaired (and) aging building that are prone to asbestos leaks,” said Sam Hammond, head of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO).
Students in the province are also complaining about the condition of schools.
“I have sat in a classroom in winter where I’ve had to put my winter jacket on and so have other kids in the class because it was so cold,” said high school student Spencer Higdon-McGreal.
Ontario schools are ranked by the province using a system referred to as the Facility Condition Index (FCI).
The rankings are calculated as a percentage, which is the total value of replacement costs compared to the total value of replacing the entire building. For example, if a school needs $10 million in repairs, and its value is $20 million, its FCI is 50 per cent.
CTV Toronto obtained the rankings, which showed that 136 schools are at 65 or above. Another 195 schools fall between 30 and 65, receiving a ranking of "poor."
According to the rankings, the worst school in the TDSB is Park Lane Public School, a specialized facility for students with severe disabilities. Its ranking is at 200.
Opposing parties are now condemning the government for its cutbacks on education.
“The Liberals cut $250 million from education last year,” NDP leader Andrea Horwath said during question period. “They’ve shut down nearly 100 schools in four years.
The province says it has been helping schools improve their condition, citing a three-year, $1.25 billion investment made in 2014.
Fix Our Schools, however, says the Auditor General’s report calls for $1.4 billion of investment each year.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Janice Golding