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Ontario will not give TDSB permission to combine schools

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Ontario’s education minister appears to have rejected a request by the province’s biggest school board that would have alleviated budget pressures by combining up to four schools per year.

The request was made last week at a Toronto District School Board (TDSB) meeting in response to a seven-year moratorium on school closures.

The moratorium was implemented in 2017, preventing boards from closing or merging underutilized facilities. The measure was supposed to be temporary, pending a review of how the decisions are made. To date, that review has not been completed.

The Ontario government has not indicated they will be ending the moratorium.

During a meeting Thursday, the TDSB argued the province should provide it instead with a special exemption to combine up to four schools per year to help “address growing costs” and “facilitate long-term planning.”

"Being able to consolidate schools would be a real win for TDSB students and communities and enable us to bring the programming students deserve, to each and every local school," Chair of TDSB Rachel Chernos-Lin said in a statement.

"This important action by the ministry would be incredibly impactful and would allow the TDSB to operate in a more financially efficient manner, and better serve the needs and aspirations of students, families, and communities."

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the TDSB received about $120 million more in funding, teaches 10,000 fewer students, and has more staff on the sunshine list than the previous years.

“They're sitting on the largest real estate portfolio in the city of Toronto,” Lecce said.

“So, my message to the board continues to be that they need to act responsibly (with) their tax dollars and do what virtually every board will do and that’s balance the budget.”

Instead, Lecce said his government will invest in building more schools rather than closing them.

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