Leading up to the Ontario Liberal AGM held February 2-4, 2018, citizens were asked to share “what was on their mind” with the Premier. One Ontario parent sent us her letter to the Premier, focused on school buildings in this province.
Dear Premier Wynne,
I thank you for the opportunity to let you know what is concerning my community. One of my children goes to a large elementary school in Ontario and I would like to say that the parents at the school can be confident that their kids are getting the best education in a quality school in our great country. However that is not the case.
Instead, every parent at that school has spent years very worried about the overcrowding, poor air quality, fire safety and structural integrity of that school. In short, they are concerned for their children’s safety and how it impacts their learning.
For a decade now, one of the many many urgent repairs needed on the building is the ‘standpipe system’. Imagine my surprise when I learned that that meant the fireman couldn’t hook their hoses into the upper floors of the building. Patch jobs over the years have meant almost every year at least one of the fire exits is blocked. One of the exits was boarded up for a week when an exterior staircase started to give way. For five years now, the front doors are mended frequently, as the panic bars often malfunction making it impossible to exit the building in an emergency.
Both of my children try to time their days so that they don’t need to use the washrooms at their schools. It is very common for stalls to be missing doors and for there to be no soap or hot water. I spoke to an architect recently who explained to me how easy it is to design a washroom that doesn’t break down and is also easy to hose down at the end of the day.
My eldest attends a high school now. The staff and teachers are excellent and work hard. I watched 4 caretakers last week scrub floors until they were gleaming. That is gleaming between the cracks that have opened up in high traffic areas. The stairs are impossible to clean, as the surfaces of them have worn down to the point where there are no longer treads for safety. Paint peels off the lockers as the kids open them. They inhale paint chips, flakes from old ceiling panels and dirty air from ancient fans that are caked in a black substance which I can’t identify.
The teachers in the school wear their winter coats, but as that is technically banned in the school, my eldest now wears 4 layers of clothing and a sweater to try to get warm enough to concentrate. She tells us how hard it is to learn when you are cold.
I try not to think about it, and I don’t talk to my kids about it, but I am also very concerned with the age of their school buildings, how behind they are in repairs and a resulting structural failure.
I guess my question to you is what are you going to do to ensure that my children and the 2,500 other children in their schools are in safe buildings that don’t expose them to asbestos, dirty air, fire risks, poor air quality, lead in the water, extreme temperatures and worse.
Please DON”T tell me that you’ve improved the funding to the schools. I can read (as can the other parents) and I can see that the repair list is getting longer every year. It is clear to all of the parents at our schools that the school board is doing all they can, and that you need to do a lot more.
I am also a home owner and I know that I can’t put repairs off because they just create a bigger, more expensive job. Why has your government let repairs go this long? As a taxpayer, I want a government who is responsible with my taxes.
Please let me know the exact steps your government plans to take so that my children have any hope of a repaired, safe school before they graduate.