What should new school buildings look like?

299_232648Amelia Earhart and Gompers Elementary Middle Schools were both built in recent years as part of the Detroit Public Schools Construction and Modernization Program. Each earned the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Silver level award; incorporates the latest technology; and benefits from thoughtful design that takes into account:

• separate areas for JK-Grade5 and the Grades 6-8

• many well-placed windows allowing plenty of natural light

• colourful, exciting structural elements

• integrated Smart Boards 

• excellent lighting

299_476071Ontario needs to invest in the best education for our children, which includes quality school buildings designed to maximize learning and achievement. Let’s start imagining what our publicly funded schools ought to look like.


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Now is the time to join us to Fix Our Schools

The Fix Our Schools campaign is led by a small group of passionate parents and students with a clear vision that all children attending Ontario’s publicly funded schools have the right to be educated in safe, well-maintained buildings that provide environments conducive to learning. We want Ontario’s children to be global citizens who can compete for jobs and educational spots world-wide. We know that school conditions matter because they impact students’ learning environments and teachers’ working environments. 

Over the last two years, we’ve created a large network of engaged citizens who have been demanding that the provincial government begin funding schools as critical infrastructure. … and the provincial government is starting to hear us.   

We are pleased that the provincial government is going to increase funding to school boards for school repairs. Every school board in our province has an unfathomably large repair backlog and new funding was desperately needed. However, this new funding is not going to immediately address the $15-billion backlog that has been allowed to accumulate in Ontario’s schools. Which is why Fix Our Schools remains committed to working with all MPPs and School Boards to ensure that:

  • The new level of investment of $1.4-billion/year starts to decrease the $15-billion repair backlog that currently exists in Ontario’s publicly funded schools.
  • The issue of disrepair in Ontario’s schools is a major election issue in the next provincial election in 2018; and continues to be an important focus of our provincial government.

So now is the time to help grow this campaign! You can help do that by sharing Fix Our Schools with your network and encouraging them to join us and/or engage with Fix Our Schools on Facebook or Twitter 

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Deciphered: School Condition Improvement (SCI) and School Renewal Allocation (SRA) funding

SCI funding, as explained on pages 127-28 in the Education Funding Technical Paper, 2016-17:

This funding is intended to help boards address the identified renewal backlog from the data collected to date through the Ministry’s five-year Condition Assessment Program, which began in 2011.

Beginning in 2015–16, the Ministry changed the funding approach for SCI. SCI funding is now allocated in proportion to a board’s total assessed renewal needs under the Ministry’s Condition Assessment Program.

80% of SCI funds must be targeted to key building components (foundation, roof, windows, etc.) and mechanical systems (electrical, HVAC, plumbing, etc.)

20% of SCI funds are discretionary, offering school boards flexibility to allocate towards locally-identified projects at existing schools, which are listed in the VFA facility database.  (e.g. science labs, interior finishings, etc.)

School boards have the flexibility to prioritize schools and individual components and systems that fit under these categories and deal with problems as they emerge, rather than having to wait for the next condition assessment of a building.

Unspent funds from a board’s SCI allocation may be carried forward to the following year.

Boards will be required to report spending of this SCI funding in the VFA facility database. Reimbursement of board expenditure is contingent on timely reporting. Payments will be made twice a year based on reported expenditure. The Ministry will fund short-term interest costs related to these expenditures reflecting that SCI funding will occur on a bi-annual basis, consistent with other capital programs.

Boards must use this funding on depreciable renewal expenditures in schools that are expected to remain open and operating for at least five years. Boards should use the funding to address renewal priorities of the board, including addressing health and safety, replacing and repairing building components, improving the energy efficiency of schools, and improving accessibility. Boards are not to use this funding to expand the size of schools, build new schools, or to service debt.

SRA funding, synthesized from information on pages 114-22 in the Education Funding Technical Paper, 2016-17:

The provincial government allocates SRA funding to school boards predominantly based on the number of pupils in a given board, although other factors such as age of buildings and utilization rates of schools are also taken into consideration in how this funding is allocated.

School boards are to use this money for repairing and renovating schools. Generally, school boards use SRA funding for more “cosmetic” repairs such as painting – which are also included in the $15-billion repair backlog total. These types of repairs are important in sending a positive message to students about their learning environment, to teachers and staff about their working environment and to the community, in general, about the importance of our publicly funded schools as critical infrastructure. Therefore, SRA funding is a good complement to SCI funding.

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How the new $1.1-billion in provincial funding for school repairs breaks down

On June 27, 2016, Education Minister Mitzie Hunter announced an investment of $1.1-billion to repair schools across the province.  Here is a detailed breakdown of how this investment will flow to school boards.

  • An increase of $500-million to school boards to use for school repairs this summer; $460-million of the $500-million total will be allocated via School Condition Improvement (SCI) funding and $40-million via School Renewal Allocation (SRA) funding.* When added to the existing funding commitment of $500-million in SCI funding and $320-million in SRA funding, the total funding for school repairs this 2015/16 year will total $1.3-billion.
  • An increase of $575-million to school boards to use for school repairs in 2016/17; $535-million of which will be allocated via SCI funding and $40-million via SRA funding. When added to the existing $500-million in SCI funding and $320-million in SRA funding, the total funding for school boards to use for school repairs next year in 2016/17 will be the $1.4-billion annual funding that Ontario’s Auditor-General said is needed to keep Ontario’s publicly funded schools in a state of good repair.

Fix Our Schools is pleased that this new level of annual funding for school repairs follows the Auditor General’s 2015 recommendation of $1.4-billion per year, an amount that represents the industry standard of investing 2.5% of a buildings replacement value in annual maintenance in order to keep that asset in a state of good repair. School buildings are public assets that the government has an obligation to keep well-maintained.

Fix Our Schools is also pleased that this money is being allocated to school boards based on their renewal needs and that the provincial government has committed to publicly posting detailed information regarding the condition and renewal needs of each of Ontario’s 4,900 public schools.

However, a $15-billion repair backlog has been allowed to accumulate in Ontario’s publicly funded schools over the past 20 years that is not going away anytime soon. Therefore, Fix Our Schools remains committed to working with all MPPs and School Boards to ensure that:

  • The new level of investment of $1.4-billion/year starts to decrease the $15-billion repair backlog that currently exists in Ontario’s publicly funded schools.
  • The issue of disrepair in Ontario’s schools is a major election issue in the next provincial election in 2018; and continues to be an important focus of our provincial government.

* Click here for more details on School Condition Improvement (SCI) funding and School Renewal Allocation (SRA) funding.

 

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Fix Our Schools pleased with new level of provincial funding for school repairs

Fix Our Schools is pleased that today, the provincial government has recognized schools as critical infrastructure in Ontario by increasing annual funding for school repairs to $1.3-billion this year and $1.4-billion in 2016/17. We are also pleased that all political party leaders at Queen’s Park have recognized the issue of disrepair in Ontario’s schools as an important one.

“Over the past two decades, Ontario has dug a $15-billion hole of disrepair in our publicly funded schools”, says Krista Wylie, a parent and co-founder of the Fix Our Schools Campaign. “With this new funding commitment of $1.4-billion/year for school repairs, we’ve stopped the digging but a large hole remains. This Fall, children will still return to aging classrooms with leaking roofs – so we stay committed to working with the provincial government and Ontario’s school boards to ensure we Fix Our Schools.”

Earlier this year, Fix Our Schools called upon the provincial government to increase annual funding for school repairs to $1.4-billion/year – the amount identified by the Auditor-General as needed to keep Ontario’s publicly funded schools in a state of good repair. Fix Our Schools also asked for a long-term funding plan that would address the $15-billion repair backlog that has accumulated in Ontario’s schools over the past two decades.

Fix Our Schools looks forward to working with all MPP’s and School Boards to ensure that:

  • The new level of investment of $1.4-billion/year starts to decrease the $15-billion repair backlog that currently exists in Ontario’s publicly funded schools.
  • The issue of disrepair in Ontario’s schools is a major election issue in the next provincial election in 2018; and continues to be an important focus of our provincial government.
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First day of summer in Ontario schools

This first official day of summer is hot. With humidity – it will feel even hotter. But school isn’t out for the summer yet. Across Ontario, 2-million students and thousands of teachers and staff will be in schools today – most without the benefit of air conditioning.

Temperatures in classrooms of old Ontario schools will soar to 40 plus degrees today. Victor Ferreira explores this issue as it pertains to Toronto schools in the article entitled, “It’s stinking hot. So why do so few of Toronto’s schools have air conditioning?” in the June 20, 2016 edition of the National Post.

If Ferreira had explored the issue province-wide, the article would have been very much the same story. Ontario’s school temperatures are an issue both in the winter, when many classrooms are too cold to learn, and in the fall/spring/summer, when temperatures inside old schools with no air conditioning are too hot.

However you analyze the issue, to fix it, we need more money to Fix Our Schools. Premier Wynne, will you prioritize Ontario’s publicly funded schools and allocate funding to ensure all Ontario students attend buildings that are safe, well-maintained and provide environments conducive to learning?

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What kind of commitment is that?

During question period at Queen’s Park on June 8, 2016, Patrick Brown, Leader of the Ontario PC Party and PC Education Critic, asked Premier Wynne about her government’s commitment to the children of this province, given that her government has allowed $15-billion of disrepair to accumulate in Ontario’s publicly funded schools.

MPP Brown asked the Premier, “how many more years will students have to learn and teachers have to teach in our crumbling schools? We must do better. Will the Premier commit to that?” and cites Fix Our Schools several times as he lists specific examples of unacceptable disrepair that impacts students and teachers daily. 

In response to Premier Wynne and Minister Sandals, MPP Brown calls them out on the fact that their increases to education spending are simply not enough and surely not worth bragging about: “The Minister of Education brags that they have a $15 billion problem and they’re going to deal with 7% of it—some 7%. How about all those students in those schools where there’s mould and disrepair?

And goes on to ask Kathleen Wynne, “How can the Premier expect children to learn while they shiver and are forced to wear winter coats in the classroom? Will the Premier commit to dealing with the huge list, the backlog of $15 billion to fix our schools?

Fix Our Schools is thrilled to have this support. Thanks MPP Brown for raising awareness and increasing pressure!  We are now working with both the NDP and PC parties in this province on this issue, which is truly a non-partisan issue!. The children and adults in this province who spend their days in our publicly funded schools deserve better and Fix Our Schools is committed to knocking on every door to find solutions.

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We love “unsexy” investments in infrastructure

2016_05_30_Trudeau sexy investmentWe, at the Fix Our Schools campaign, are all for unsexy investments in public infrastructure. So we were thrilled to read about “bucks for the unsexy side of transit” by Edward Keenan in the May 7, 2016 Toronto Star and see that Justin Trudeau’s federal government has pledged up to $840-million for TTC maintenance. Yes, that’s right – maintenance of public transit!

While politicians are keen to make sexy investments in brand new infrastructure, they often forget the next logical step of allocating the required funding to maintain that new investment.

In Ontario alone, over $15-billion of disrepair has been allowed to accumulate in our publicly funded schools because our provincial government has chronically and grossly underfunded the maintenance of these important buildings – where 2-million childen spend their days.

Perhaps ribbon-cuttings for new roofs and new boilers in schools is warranted? Somehow, we need to make investing in the maintenance of our publicly funded schools sexy for politicians. 

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