Category Archives: Fix Our Schools

Want to ensure public schools are a key election issue in June?

If you care about public education and want to ensure that all Ontario children attend schools that are safe, well-maintained and provide environments conducive to learning, then please use the following materials to engage with the Fix Our Schools campaign and help make a difference!

    1. Flyer to provide you and your network with a quick overview of the Fix Our Schools campaign and some ideas for actions you can take.
    2. A Pledge to show your local MPP candidates in the coming months to have them sign to  demonstrate their commitment to fixing public schools in Ontario.
    3. An MPP_Information Kit to equip you to set up a meeting with your local MPP or any of your local MPP candidates for the upcoming June election.
    4. A Campaign_Guide that provides more details about the Fix Our Schools campaign – if you are really committed to the cause and wish to launch your own Fix Our Schools campaign locally, then this guide will help you do just that!

 

Major Roof Leak in Ancaster School

Students sent in the video included in this CHCH report on an Ancaster high school roof leak from February 15, 2018. The video clearly illustrates how $15.9-billion of disrepair in Ontario’s schools translates into the day-to-day reality for too many children in this province.

The major roof leak resulted in 37 garbage cans filled with brown liquid lining one hallway in the building. In addition, seven classrooms were closed.

The Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) said that some of those seven classrooms have asbestos and that, while the asbestos hasn’t been moved at all, the possibility for problems with asbestos disturbance led them to close those classrooms. The Superintendent said there was no concern for the school’s structural integrity and that no mould was found in testing.

Unfortunately, countless schools across the province experience roof leaks every day and repairs are only done reactively rather than proactively since provincial funding has been so grossly inadequate for so long.

New Education Minister focused on physical well-being of Ontario’s school children

This week, Ontario’s new Minister of Education visited a Toronto public school to highlight her Ministry’s new investments to help keep children and youth physically active inside and outside the classroom.

While we applaud Ms. Indira Naidoo-Harris for putting a spotlight on the physical well-being of Ontario schoolchildren, the location she chose to make that announcement is an ironic one.

At over 100 years of age, St. Cecilia public school has $4.4 million of disrepair, according to Ministry published data.*

The lack of adequate and stable funding from the Provincial Government for over two decades has left thousands of schools in Ontario in a similar state. School Boards have been forced to address only the most urgent repairs, leaving items on the “high needs” list to continue to get worse. Boards have not been able to choose repairs to do; those repairs have been chosen for them. For example, once a school roof starts leaking (which happens with alarming frequency across the province!), that issue clearly becomes the priority repair, since water will damage other parts of the building. Without proactive planning, the condition of the capital assets we call schools will continue to degrade.

Going for a walk seems a simplistic solution for students in schools that, because of lack of capital improvements, have poor air & water quality, no safety upgrades and unhygienic washrooms.

Fix Our Schools calls on the Provincial Government to give specific details on how they will address the $15.9 Billion repair backlog in Ontario’s schools.

*To see the repair backlog data for your school visit: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/parents/fci.html

For a list of the specific repairs needed at your school, the TDSB (a leader in repair transparency) publishes the data on each school’s individual website under “Renewal Needs”. We encourage you (if you are not with the TDSB), to demand the release of the specific repairs needed for your school from your local trustee. Every parent deserves to know what repairs are needed at their child’s school.

What one parent wrote to Premier Wynne

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.

According to the Ontario Auditor-General…

When it comes to funding education in this province, the most recent report from Ontario’s Auditor-General states on page 429 of the report that the Ministry of Education “does not allocate funding based on actual needs, and does not analyze whether additional funding provided for some students is actually achieving the intended results.”

If we value an educated society, shouldn’t our government allocate funding for education based on actual student needs?

Fix Our Schools certainly thinks so… what do you think?

First Nations Schools need $2 Billion Urgently

Most schools in Ontario are funded solely by the Province. (Your property taxes no longer go directly to your school board.) Those publicly funded schools have been grossly underfunded for decades and have mind-boggling repair lists.

newly built First Nations schoolBut let us not forget about the school districts in Ontario funded by the Federal Government: The First Nations. These schools need “immediate attention” according to documents tabled in the House of Commons. One community, in Pikangikum First Nation, had to wait TEN years for a new school after the previous one burned down. Shame. Schools are essential to all communities.

All publicly funded schools in Ontario, including First Nations schools, suffer from inadequate and unstable funding. All levels of government must know that education matterts to voters. We must demand that they Fix Our Schools.

Our contribution to the provincial pre-budget consultation process

Fix Our Schools contributed this submission to the provincial pre-budget consultation process. It highlights that the $1.4 billion/year our provincial government is currently allocating for school renewal is simply not enough to start to reduce the $15.9 billion of disrepair in Ontario’s schools. To make up for the 20 years when provincial funding was a mere fraction of what it ought to have been as per industry standards, economist Hugh Mackenzie suggests that an additional investment of $1.6 billion/year is needed to start to truly fix Ontario’s schools as per the following breakdown:

Continue reading

Brand New School in Windsor; Students in Portables on Opening Day?

Ontario’s current approach to funding education and schools was implemented 20 years ago and it simply does not work. There are examples everywhere we look: massive repair backlogs, students’ learning being negatively impacted by their school conditions, staff teaching in rooms with outrageous temperatures or no windows.

Imagine being a rare student in Ontario who gets a NEW school built in their community! No leaking roofs, washrooms that have doors, no bugs, alarm/fire systems that work, no lead in the water and structurally sound. 

In Windsor, students at St. Teresa of Calcutta Catholic Elementary School had that vision. However, when the Ministry of Education had finished their funding and design calculations, and the school was built – the brand new school was too small for the student population.

Parents were confused. “It’s a brand new school. You would think that they would fit all the students instead of making a portable for extra students,” said Aries Cabangon, who has one of his children learning inside of a portable.

As Fix Our Schools identified in this February 2017 blog post entitled, “Ontario communities each have unique educational issues”, no community in the province is being well served by the current provincial funding formula for education. With $15.9 billion of disrepair in Ontario schools, it is hard to fathom how no provincial government in the last 20 years has fixed this funding formula and repaired some of the most valuable public assets we own.

What’s going on at Queen’s Park?

Economist Hugh Mackenzie estimates that in order to eliminate the $15.9 billion of disrepair in Ontario’s publicly funded schools, an additional $1.6 billion per year in provincial funding is needed for repairing, maintaining and rebuilding schools.

The next provincial election is in June 2018. The Liberals have one more budget to issue before Ontarians head to the polls. The Ontario Liberal, PC and NDP parties are all preparing their election platforms in the hopes of forming the next provincial government.

Interesting times at Queen’s Park.

Queen's Park winterAt the PC policy convention in late November, Leader Patrick Brown revealed a “People’s Guarantee” and pledged not to run for a second term if he fails to deliver on five major commitments. Sadly, there was not even a mention of the $15.9 billion of disrepair in Ontario’s schools, let alone any commitment to an additional $1.6 billion per year in provincial funding to fix our schools. This was disappointing, given Brown’s willingness to take on the issue of disrepair in Ontario’s schools in June 2016.

In April, 2017, the Ontario NDP party unveiled their vision document, upon which their platform for the June 2018 election will be based. In it, the mounting repair backlog in Ontario’s schools is highlighted as an issue, noting that Ontario children are being sent to schools with leaky roofs and broken boilers. The NDP vision document states that “a New Democrat government will take immediate action to bring community schools up to a reasonable state of repair and address all repairs quickly moving forward.” However, no financial details have been outlined in an actual platform so it remains to be seen if the NDP party will commit the additional $1.6 billion per year needed to truly fix Ontario’s schools. 

When the Liberals took over from the PCs in 2003, they inherited a legacy that included $5.6 billion of disrepair in Ontario’s schools. Today, disrepair in Ontario’s schools stands at $15.9 billion – triple the amount of disrepair they inherited in 15 years ago. To reverse this appalling trend, an additional $1.6 billion per year must be committed to repairing, rebuilding and maintaining our schools. The upcoming Liberal budget will signal their level of commitment to ensuring all Ontario children attend school in a safe, well-maintained and healthy building.  

Interesting times indeed.

 

Why Does Infrastructure Matter?

The photo here shows a downtown Toronto water pipe exploding last winter. The hydro vault around the corner from me caught fire this fall. When dramatic incidents happen, we come to understand, up close, why we should all care about aging infrastructure. Standing in the dark, knee deep in water we say “I get it!”

I remember as a child knowing when we’d crossed the border to the United States because the ride got a lot bumpier. Now it is our highways that are a rough ride. Highways take the brunt of our commuting in cars because of a lack of fast, reliable public transportation.

School buildings are public infrastructure owned by taxpayers and are the hubs that allow us to educate our children and build a strong economy.

Taxpayers want dependable electricity, clean water and excellent education for their children and grandchildren.

But are there even more important reasons why we should care about infrastructure? Yes!

• Poor infrastructure affects our economy. New businesses to Canada want to see a solid infrastructure in place before they’ll invest. According to Dominque Gautier of Roland Berger Canada, the most important role the government can take right now is to incent long-term investors to focus on Canadian infrastructure. Continue reading