The fate of dozens of underutilized public schools in Toronto will be determined over the next three years.
The Toronto District School Board voted on Tuesday to study 48 underutilized schools that will be considered for sale, closure or repurpose. An additional 20 properties where schools have already been closed or demolished will also be considered for sale or repurpose during the three-year period.
Tuesday's vote comes after Ontario Education Minister Liz Sandals gave the board until Friday to create a plan to manage the city's underutilized schools.
Last month, the TDSB released a list of 130 schools that are operating at 65 per cent or less of their capacity. The board on Tuesday reviewed that list, along with another list of 60 schools that may close. That list is part of the TDSB's 10-year capital plan passed last year.
Following the meeting, TDSB chair Shaun Chen stressed that the board's decision Tuesday night does not mean schools will be closing any time soon.
"Schools are not closing tomorrow," he said. "There has been no decision today to close any currently operating schools."
Earlier on Tuesday, a group of parents and educators met at the TDSB headquarters to protest the possible closure of the schools.
Many parents, community members and councillors have expressed concern about what they consider a rushed process. They say the buildings are more than just classrooms.
"People need to take care of our children and our grandchildren," one protestor said.
"The schools belong to us," said another.
Coun. Mike Layton also spoke about the issue on Tuesday. He agrees the process needs to be slowed down, and community members consulted.
"(Let's) take a pause on the rush selloff of our schools and take into consideration that our schools are more than just seats in a classroom," he told reporters.
'Risk of losing 200 childcare spaces'
TDSB Trustee Marit Stiles says the possible closures also put hundreds of childcare spaces on the chopping block.
"There has to be a conversation, there has to be a community consultation, collaboration because we are at risk of losing 200 childcare spaces,” she said.
One of those spaces is the former Old Orchard Public School, located on Dovercourt Road, south of College Street.
The downtown space is one of four non-operating schools the TDSB might sell. The school was shut down in 2000, but the TDSB has been leasing the building.
It is currently home to the West End Parents' Daycare, where 80 full-time and 60 before-and-after school children attend. Old Orchard also houses the Orchard Montessori School
If the building is sold, some parents are worried they will be without affordable childcare.
"They are subsidized childcare spots," said Rick Nankisoor, the executive director of the West End Parents' Daycare. "If they are gone, you would have to displace children into the community, and everyone has a two-year waitlist."
Ward 10 TDSB trustee Ausma Malik adds that the board should avoid making a quick decision that could affect the community in the long run.
"We have a growing, vibrant downtown community that is changing rapidly. We need to make sure we have school spaces to accommodate the need we have."
The following schools will be reviewed by a Pupil Accomodation Review Committee in 2015:
- Nelson Boylen Collegiate Institute
- Downsview Secondary School
- Weston Collegiate Institute
- Sir Robert Borden Business and Technical Institute
- West Hill Collegiate Institute
- Sir Wilfrid Laurier Collegiate Institute
- Danforth Collegiate and Technical Institute
- East York Alternative Secondary School
- East York Collegiate Institute
- Eastdale Collegiate Institute
- Eastern Commerce Collegiate Institute
- Greenwood Secondary School
- Monarch Park Collegiate Institute
- Riverdale Collegiate Institute
- School of Life Experience
- Subway Academy I
These schools will be reviewed by a PARC in 2015-16:
- Charles H. Best Middle School
- Wilmington Elementary School
- Vaughan Road Secondary School
- York Memorial Collegiate Institute
- Oakwood Collegiate Institute
- John Polanyi Collegiate Institute
- Forest Hill Collegiate Institute
- George Harvey Collegiate Institute
- John Buchan Senior Public School
- Highland Heights Junior Public School
- Tam O'Shanter Junior Public School
- Inglewood Heights Junior Public School
- Lynngate Junior Public School
- Pauline Johnson Junior Public School
- Timberbank Junior Public School
- Kensington Junior Public School
- Ryerson Community School
- King Edward Junior and Senior Public School
- Lord Lansdowne Junior and Senior Public School
The following schools will be reviewed in 2016-17
- Gracefield Public School
- Amesbury Public School
- Galloway Road Public School
- St. Margaret's Public School
- Manhattan Park Junior Public School
- Buchanan Public School
- Rockcliffe Middle School
- Cordella Junior Public School
- Harwood Public School
- George Syme Community School
- Roselands Junior Public School
- Lambton Park Community School
- Dennis Avenue Community School
With reports from CTV Toronto's Ashley Rowe and Naomi Parness