Heritage advocates push to preserve Davisville P.S.

TDSB plans to demolish building to make way for a new state-of-the-art facility


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From top: Davisville P.S. and Snyder Architects’ rendering of its new design

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) is forging ahead with new design plans for Davisville Junior Public School despite ongoing arguments that the building should be preserved as a heritage site.

Catherine Nasmith, president of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO), is continuing a campaign to save the school building. The ACO has nominated Davisville P.S. to the National Trust for Canada’s Top 10 Endangered Places list, and Nasmith recently met with members of provincial parliament at Queen’s Park to advocate for its preservation.

“It’s a tragedy. It’s just bad policy at every level of government.”

Built in 1962, Davisville P.S. was designed by the late Peter Pennington for the Metropolitan Toronto School for the Deaf and custom designed to their exact needs. The school is currently suffering from a long list of repairs, and in 2015 the provincial government determined a rebuild was the most cost-effective solution and pledged $14.7 million under those terms.

Nasmith argued the cultural and heritage value of the property was largely ignored during that process, and the building could have been repurposed or a part of the property sold off instead.

“It’s a tragedy.… It’s just bad policy at every level of government,” she said.

Last June, the ACO recommended the building for heritage designation, but Toronto and East York Community Council denied the application.

Shelley Laskin, TDSB trustee for Ward 11, said that there is no possibility of the current building being saved as a heritage site.

“The school is not going to be designated heritage. That argument is over. The current school will be demolished, and the playground and the learning spaces will be where the existing school currently is. It’s a very exciting project, and we look forward to it,” she said.

John Hiddema, a parent from the school, has been fighting for a new building for seven years. He said the current building is non-functional for many reasons including space restrictions, a leaking roof and accessibility issues, and the new building will improve the community immensely.

“The new school is going to be much bigger in terms of usable space, and it’s going to be appropriately configured. It’s going to be a much better facility for our community,” said Hiddema. 

Nasmith does not intend to give up the fight. “We haven’t figured out what’s next, but we’re not done arguing for that school,” she said.

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