“Old, cold, now mould!”
That’s how one sign summed up the trouble inside Secord Elementary’s aging portables at a parent-led walkout on Oct. 24.
Jennifer Goberdhan, a parent council member, was one of about 30 parents who pulled their children out of the Secord “port-a-pac” that day.
Made up of several portables with a connecting hallway, the port-a-pac is 23 years old – two years away from its expected shelf life.
Goberdhan said mould was found in the port-a-pac on the first day of school, and parents found more even after the Toronto District School Board had the building cleaned and air-tested. Ceiling tiles also fell in because the roof is leaking.
Two days before the walkout, Goberdhan said parents met with the school trustee, superintendent, TDSB facilities staff, engineers and contractors, but they came away unsatisfied.
“They’re talking about funding issues, saying we don’t have the money to fund an addition right now,” she said. “And that is the long-term goal – we want a permanent structure built.”
Currently the TDSB is doing a major repair of the port-a-pac roof that may cost up to $100,000. Parent council co-chair Peter Soros slammed the move.
“It’s had its shelf life,” he said. “They’re dumping a ton of money.”
Local school trustee Sheila Cary-Meagher praised Secord parents for raising the issue.
“I think they deserve incredible kudos for putting this together because I haven’t been getting any response,” she said.
Cary-Meagher said in 2012, a review of Ward 16 schools north of the Danforth was going to recommend closing Parkside and Victoria Park elementary schools, both of which have around 150 students, and building an addition at Secord so it can enroll students up to Grade 8, rather than Grade 5.
But the provincial government froze all TDSB capital spending that year after the rebuilding of Nelson Mandela Park Public School went $8 million over budget.
“It got frozen by the ministry, and then in discussions during the freeze they said we’re not going to fund a replacement for Parkside or a replacement for Vic Park,” she said. “They won’t do it.”
Cary-Meagher said the addition approved for nearby George Webster elementary came from TDSB property sales, not the province.
“Now we have nothing left to sell,” she said.
But local MPP Arthur Potts said provincial funding is not the problem.
“We’ve got $130 billion worth of spending on infrastructure, for schools, hospitals, transit – so money’s available,” said Potts. “We’re waiting for the Toronto District School Board to present a credible capital case for building here.”
Potts said part of the issue is that it’s hard to justify an addition at Secord when there are empty spaces at D.A. Morrison, another elementary school nearby.
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