146 TDSB schools operate at 100% utilization or greater, where classrooms and outdoor play spaces are crowded. Kew Beach Junior Public School, for example, operates at 143% utilization. The Principal at this school says that student injuries have become commonplace and kindergarten students aren’t allowed outside at lunch time for safety reasons. To address the crowded school yard at Kew Beach Junior Public School, a land deal has been struck between the TDSB and the City of Toronto, which owns a 1.5 hectare park adjacent to Kew Beach Public School.
Some community members are upset about being deprived a public park for part of the day. However, the TDSB does not receive significant funding from the Province for alleviating overcrowding in schools and schoolyards, since provincial utilization rates show that there are spaces available at TDSB schools (even if those spaces aren’t located nearby the overcrowded schools!). Hence, this “out-of-the-box” solution has been created, which provides a safer schoolyard for Kew Beach students but prevents local residents from accessing their local park during school hours. The province says outside-the-box solutions shouldn’t be necessary. However, Kew Beach is the latest school to disagree.
As local City Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon said, “The TDSB is under the gun” and “we’ve just got to get into the mentality and state of mind of sharing.” Despite the Province’s opinion, “out-of-the-box” solutions for dealing with space pressures will likely become more common.