Tag Archives: Repair backlog

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.

If you believe your child’s school is in good shape…you may be surprised

Many parents we’ve spoken with over the past 18 months have said that their children’s school is in “pretty good shape” except for maybe needing a new coat of paint. Fix Our Schools wants to emphasize that much of the disrepair reflected in the $15-billion repair backlog in Ontario’s schools is invisible. Parents, teachers and students would have no way of knowing about much of the disrepair until there was a system failure. For instance, until classes are cancelled at a school because there is no heat, people would presume the boiler was in good shape.

The takeaway here is that just because the disrepair is invisible doesn’t mean that it won’t impact students and teachers at some point and definitely doesn’t mean that it can be deferred indefinitely!  So, how is all of this disrepair calculated if much of it is invisible?  Great question!  Read on…

Over the past five years, Ontario’s Ministry of Education has engaged a company called VFA, a leading provider of facility assessment services, to assess the condition of Ontario’s approximately 4,900 public schools via a “Facility Condition Assessment’ (FCA).

An FCA involves a team of one or more specialists inspecting each system (mechanical, electrical, plumbing and architectural/structural elements) in a school building to understand its condition. The FCA team takes into account the remaining useful life of the system and also conducts a physical assessment of the school building. Unfortunately, this physical assessment is usually limited to a visual inspection and rarely involves any destructive or intrusive testing to make a better determination of the state of the building component. Therefore, an FCA team could visually inspect a school’s roof and deem it to be in good condition, and then the following week a major rain storm could prove that assessment incorrect when the roof starts to leak.

The FCA Team determines an estimated cost for each item of work that should be done on the school building’s system components (mechanical, electrical, plumbing and architectural/structural elements) and assigns each item of work a priority level: urgent, high, medium or low.

So, disrepair in public schools is based on these Facilities Condition Assessments conducted by VFA, a third party company engaged by the provincial government. Given the limitations of these assessments, the estimated $15-billion of disrepair in all 72 of Ontario’s publicly funded school boards may actually be quite conservative. Yet another reason why Kathleen Wynne’s provincial government must start to prioritize school buildings as important public infrastructure that must be repaired and rebuilt!

CTV features growing TDSB repair backlog

CTV featured August 14 as a “sad day for the TDSB” – the day when the repair backlog in its schools grew to exceed $3.5-billion.  Trustee Ken Lister has been tracking the growing repair backlog on his website and CTV felt it was important to highlight this issue (again!) for its viewers to mark this “dubious milestone”. CTV approached Fix Our Schools for photos of disrepair so you may see a photo that you sent to us in the TV clip.

What was not included in the TV clip above were a lot of the details below – which didn’t make it to air!

The Province provides the funding for maintaining schools. Under their watch, $3.5-billion of disrepair has accumulated in TDSB schools and $15-billion of disrepair has accumulated in public schools across the province. Every single one of Ontario’s 72 school boards has a repair backlog.

– While many people blame Principals and Trustees for the disrepair in our schools, the funding for maintaining schools comes from our provincial government. School boards must strive to be as efficient and effective as possible with the money provided by the Province. However, over the past 20 years, there simply has not been sufficient money provided by our provincial government to ensure our public schools are kept in good repair.

In 2014-15, the province provided only $2.27 to the TDSB for every $100 of repairs needed. No matter how efficient or effective a school board is, there is simply no way that $100 of disrepair can be fixed with $2.27!

– For 2015-16, the Province has substantially increased its funding to school boards for maintenance, acknowledging that the $15-billion of disrepair in Ontario’s public schools is a problem. However, even with this large increase in funding, TDSB Trustees and Staff will have to figure out how to fix $3.5-billion of repairs with about $156-million – the equivalent of less than $5 for every $100 of much-needed repairs. This is clearly an impossible task and so the repair backlog in our children’s schools will continue to grow.

The time is now for the Province to acknowledge public schools as a critical part of our societal infrastructure and start working with school boards to find ongoing, sustainable sources of funding to ensure that children and communities benefit from public schools that are well-maintained.

Jackman Community Daycare speaks up about disrepair

Fix Our Schools was copied on a letter that Donna Spreitzer, the Director of Jackman Community Daycare, wrote to Premier Wynne, Education Minister Sandals, and Deputy Minister Zegarac. Jackman Community Daycare operates within Jackman Avenue Public School, a TDSB school located near Broadview and Danforth that was built in 1963 – a relatively new building compared to the many TDSB schools.

In her letter to the Province, Ms. Spreitzer states that one section of the roof has been leaking for over five years – with a bucket in the stairwell serving as a constant reminder of the neglect to this school building. She outlines that over the 20 years she’s been affiliated with Jackman Avenue Public School, the school’s infrastructure seems to have been in constant need of repair. Ms. Spreitzer urges our provincial government to “Act now. This cannot wait!” Indeed, this is an urgent issue that Kathleen Wynne’s government must address now since her government is responsible for providing funding to public schools in this province.

As per the TDSB Repair Backlog Clock on Trustee Lister’s home page, the repair backlog at the TDSB is estimated to be growing at an astonishing rate of $1.4-million each day at the current level of funding from the Province. The money being received to take care of school buildings is simply insufficient and, at this rate, the TDSB repair backlog will have grown from $3.3-Billion to $4.36-Billion by 2017. By August 6, 2015, the TDSB’s backlog is estimated to have grown to $3.5-Billion. Fix Our Schools agrees wholeheartedly with Ms. Spreitzer’s sentiments: this cannot wait.

$14.7-billion repair backlog in public schools across Ontario

The TDSB has 588 public school buildings and a $3.3-billion capital repair backlog in those buildings. The Province uses the terminology “$3.3-billion of assessed renewal needs”.

Across the 4900 schools in the 72 school boards across Ontario, there are $14.7-Billion of assessed renewal needs. In fact, every single Ontario school board has a repair backlog, which ranges from $7.4-million to the TDSB’s whopping $3.3-billion.

While the TDSB’s $3.3-billion repair backlog is certainly the largest in the province, you have likely never heard that province-wide, our public schools have a $14.7-billion repair backlog. You may be surprised to learn that Peel DSB has almost $1-billion in outstanding capital repairs, Ottawa-Carleton DSB has $743-million, Thames Valley DSB has $691-million and the Toronto Catholic School Board has $534-million. So public schools are in a state of disrepair across the province – not only in Toronto.

“Capital repair backlog” , “assessed renewal needs” and “outstanding capital repairs” are terms that can be used interchangeably and include many urgent repair items such as: fire suppression and alarm systems; electrical systems; heating/cooling systems; and structural issues. If these types of items fail before repairs can be done, there is a risk to student safety.

We are extrapolating data presented in this blog post from the following facts:

  • TDSB schools have $3.3-billion of assessed renewal needs as per the latest provincial data
  • According to slide 23 titled “School Condition Improvement” in the Ministry of Education’s technical briefing on funding for 2015-16, a total of $500-million is being provided to Ontario school boards for “School Condition Improvement” (SCI) and this SCI funding will be allocated in proportion to a school board’s total assessed renewal needs.
  • According to pages 8 & 9 in this Provincial memorandum, the TDSB will receive $112-million of the $500-million total in 2015-16, or 22.4% of the total SCI funding, which would indicate that the TDSB’s $3.3-billion repair backlog is 22.4% of the total repair backlog for all Ontario schools.
  • Therefore, using some algebra, we can determine each school board’s capital repair backlog and arrive at a total province-wide repair backlog in public schools of $14.7-billion.