Tag Archives: Schools

More than 640 Ontario schools and daycares fail lead tests

After the Toronto Star newspaper spent a year trying to obtain data from Ontario’s Environment Ministry on which schools failed lead tests, the Province finally decided to publish information online this past Friday, October 6, 2017. Coincidentally, this same day, the Toronto Star published an article entitled, “More than 640 Ontario schools and daycares failed lead tests in the past two years”. Continue reading

Are Canadian schools ready for a natural disaster?

We’ve seen shocking examples of unprecedented natural disasters this fall. Scientists seem to be confident we’ll continue to see record-breaking weather events. 

While we consider how to best help the victims of recent hurricanes and devastating earthquakes, many Canadians are wondering about our country’s emergency-response capabilities. How would we fair with a Category 5 hurricane? Or a major earthquake like the one that devasted Mexico’s Oaxaca region?

Most Canadians know that British Columbians live in an area that is geologically active. B.C. has had 75 earthquakes in the last month alone. This week, B.C. experienced an earthquake measuring 3.8 on the Richter scale. An earthquake of 5+ can cause damage to buildings.

But do Canadians know that many children in schools in B.C. won’t be in buildings that are earthquake retrofitted? What would they say if they knew that the provincial government in B.C., regardless of the party in power, still can’t decide when to fully fund this retrofit?

B.C. has very similar tectonic plate setup to Mexico’s, and school boards are very concerned with the safety of the schools. The timeline to retrofit these schools continues to be pushed back.  Do Canadians have time to waste?

Canadians from coast-to-coast share a common problem: provincial governments are not ensuring children go to school in safe, well maintained buildings. Ask your local MP what they are doing to Fix Our Schools. Our children matter and they deserve better than we are currently delivering to them. 

Send a letter asking what the plan is to improve school conditions for Ontario’s children

On September 19, 2016, Fix Our Schools sent this letter to Premier Wynne and Education Minister asking the their government please:

  • Explore and implement funding solutions such as issuing provincial bonds to immediately address the $15-billion repair backlog in schools.
  • Work with school boards to develop measurable goals for what school conditions in Ontario ought to be; and plans/timelines for how those goals will be achieved.
  • Release disrepair data at regular intervals to ensure that the $15-billion repair backlog is decreasing; and not continuing to increase.
  • Include school conditions as a key part of your party’s provincial campaign platform.

We requested a response to these requests by October 3, 2016.

As of Monday, October 10 – no response has been received.

If school conditions are important to you and you share our concerns, we encourage you to please send this letter to Premier Wynne & Minister Hunter also! Please ensure you include your MPP; and include your name and address at the bottom of the letter.

Here is the letter below, should you wish to copy and paste instead:

To: Premier Wynne, Education Minister Hunter, Minister of Infrastructure Chiarelli & Deputy Minister Zegarac,

I am engaged with the Fix Our Schools campaign, which represents thousands of Ontario parents. Today, I ask your government to improve school conditions for all students in this province by immediately addressing the $15-billion of disrepair that has accumulated in our children’s schools.

While I commend the government’s increase in annual funding for school repairs to an industry-accepted standard, this new level of $1.4-billion/year for school repairs does little to address the $15-billion repair backlog that was allowed to accumulate in Ontario’s publicly funded schools over the past 20 years. In September of this year, an unacceptable number of Ontario’s students headed back to aging schools with hot classrooms, leaky ceilings, and myriad other issues.

Therefore, I call upon your government to improve school conditions for all Ontario students and find funding solutions to immediately address the $15-billion of disrepair in our children’s schools. I ask that your government please:

  • Explore and implement funding solutions such as issuing provincial bonds to immediately address the $15-billion repair backlog in schools.
  • Work with school boards to develop measurable goals for what school conditions in Ontario ought to be; and plans/timelines for how those goals will be achieved.
  • Release disrepair data at regular intervals to ensure that the $15-billion repair backlog is decreasing; and not continuing to increase.
  • Include school conditions as a key part of your party’s provincial campaign platform.

Kind regards,

YOUR NAME

YOUR ADDRESS

 

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?

Why have poor school conditions in Ontario not received more attention?

Disrepair in publicly funded schools is complicated. Through our work with Fix Our Schools, we have found that at every turn, stakeholders involved in this issue are reluctant to shine a light on disrepair in Ontario’s schools:

  • Parents don’t want to believe they drop their children off at a school that is in disrepair and so would rather focus on the great things happening in their children’s schools.  
  • Teachers don’t have time or the political will to be the “squeaky wheel” every time there is disrepair in their school that needs addressing. 
  • Principals and Superintendents don’t wish to highlight their school(s) as being in poor condition and risk unleashing a maelstrom of parent anger and frustration (many parents we speak to actually blame principals and caretakers for the disrepair they notice in their children’s schools, which is totally not the case at all!). 
  • Trustees and School Boards don’t want to risk “biting the hand that feeds them” so tend to be “careful” about naming the provincial government’s funding as the root cause of disrepair in schools.
  • Teachers Unions represent individual teacher health and safety concerns when teachers raise these issues. However, they have not focused on disrepair in schools and the impact on teacher working conditions as a key negotiation issue to date.
  • Media want photographs of schools in disrepair to illustrate in vivid detail how disrepair looks and create a newsworthy, sensational story. However, they are unable to get permission to access these schools because no principal wants to be the school featured (understandable!) and so media has not provided adequate coverage to this important issue.   

And so, disrepair in schools gets ignored again and again and continues to get worse – either because of lack of perspective, time, bandwidth, courage, interest, or political will.

So, collectively, we’ve all in some small way allowed the provincial government to continue to underfund school buildings over the past several decades. To fix our schools, we must come together to not only shine a light on this issue but to demand action on this issue from our provincial government. 

To make matters more complicated, much of the $15-billion of disrepair in schools is invisible to the naked eye. Structural concerns, repairs to fire alarm and suppression systems go unnoticed until they fail. You won’t know that the boiler at a school should have been replaced ten years ago until it stops working in February and school gets cancelled for a day! You won’t know that the fire alarm system was broken until … well – you get the idea. So much of the disrepair lurks beneath the surface and is impossible to illustrate, which means people don’t know about it and cannot shine a light on it. 

Asbestos in aging school buildings

On April 26, 2016, ETFO issued this press release:

Aging school buildings prompt the Elementary Teachers Federatino of Ontario (ETFO) to join call for national ban on asbestos

With asbestos in aging school buildings a leading health concern, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) has added its voice to the call for a national ban on asbestos.

The call by the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) for a ban on asbestos coincides with the April 28th National Day of Mourning, which commemorates workers who lost their lives or became sick or injured due to their work. Asbestos is the number one cause of occupational death in Canada, with more than 2,000 people dying every year from diseases caused by exposure to asbestos including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. Deaths from mesothelioma increased 60 per cent between 2000 and 2012 according to the CLC.

“We are concerned for our members, students and school communities as asbestos-containing materials such as ceiling tiles and pipe insulation can be present in aging school buildings within view and within reach,” said ETFO President Sam Hammond. “The intense activity in classrooms, hallways and gymnasiums can contribute to asbestos disturbance and put the school at risk.”

In 2014, the ETFO MOU Task Force on Health and Safety Report and Recommendations included a recommendation that the Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Education work with stakeholders to develop a provincial asbestos guidance document for school boards to manage and mitigate the risks of airborne asbestos exposure in schools. The Task Force report was developed by ETFO and the Ontario Public Supervisory Officers’ Association (OPSOA), with technical support from the Ministries of Education and Labour.

“It also makes practical sense for Ontario to develop a mandatory requirement for a public registry of asbestos in public buildings such as schools and hospitals,” added Hammond. Saskatchewan established such a registry in 2013.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario represents 78,000 elementary public school teachers, occasional teachers and education professionals across the province.

Ceiling tiles collapsing in one Ontario school

From a Grade 7/8 Teacher in Ontario:

I’m sharing a couple of photos from the Ontario elementary school where I am a teacher. 

2016_April 20_Leaky Ceiling at QuestThe first photo shows a gap in the ceiling of our Common Area where the tiles became bloated and then collapsed over a year ago due to leaking after a heavy rain. 

The building roof has been patched in places, but this particular site continues to spring a leak whenever there’s significant rain. The last time this happened, a Grade 8 student matter-of-factly put out a bucket under the leak and then went about his business as though a leaky roof is to be expected in an Ontario school!

The second photo shows a similar gap in the Grade 8 classroom and lunch room. 2016_April 20_Leaky Ceiling Lunchroom at Quest

We also experience leaks in our kitchen and musical instrument storage, risking damage to expensive and much-needed equipment. Water-stained tiles throughout the school mark the legacy of a leaky roof. The roof has been patched repeatedly over the years, but the filthy tiles remain. 

Our wonderful, supportive parent council and Principal have tried to draw attention to this issue with the powers that be. Our teaching staff and students get on with their daily business with considerable good humour and aplomb. I think it is a shame that these are our working and learning conditions. We have great caretakers who do all they can just to maintain the day-to-day cleanliness of the classroom floors, hallways, stairwell and bathrooms.  

Parents, students and visitors frequently comment on the disrepair in our schools. They  wonder aloud about the possibility of mold, given all the evidence of longstanding water issues. It’s embarrassing and reflects poorly on our school! Some less informed folks have even made remarks that suggest that the fault lies with the teaching staff. This is unfair and hard on morale as we work hard to run a program that we can be proud of. 

The worst part is that in terms of our facility, I know that we are actually quite lucky compared to other schools I’ve visited. 

I hope these photos help shine a light on the issue of maintenance and crumbling infrastructure so that changes can be made to the funding formula and real improvements can be made to schools across our our province. 

A picture is worth 1,000 words

Northern

2-million children attend publicly funded schools in Ontario. Many of these schools are crumbling and do not provide an optimum learning environment for children.

Please email Fix Our Schools photos of disrepair in your local schools. A picture is truly worth 1,000 words!

The first step in fixing a problem is Northern 3acknowledging there is a problem. Your photos will ensure that the problem of disrepair in schools is
acknowledged and help move us towards finding solutions to Fix Our Schools!

Parents demanding school repairs at Queen’s Park: CBC Coverage

On February 22, Fix Our Schools was at Q2016_CBC_toronto-school-repairsueen’s Park demanding that Kathleen Wynne’s government provide the funding needed to fix Ontario’s crumbling schools, as covered by CBC.

We were joined by teachers, students, childcare advocates, trustees and school board staff to highlight that disrepair in Ontario’s schools is an important issue impacting real people every day. Students, preschoolers, teachers, principals, and community members all deserve safe, well-maintained schools!

 

Our presentation to City-School Boards Committee

city of toronto city hallAs you know, Fix Our Schools is an Ontario-wide campaign. However, we are knocking on every door in an effort to raise awareness on disrepair in our schools and encourage action to address the $15-billion of disrepair currently plaguing Ontario’s schools.

With this in mind, Fix Our Schools attended the City of Toronto’s joint City-School Boards Advisory Committee meeting on February 11, 2016 and made this presentation, which calls upon Ontario’s largest municipality to consider how it can work together with all four local school boards to help Fix Our Schools.