Local school’s expansion plans put on hold
Trustee says Willowdale is struggling with over-enrolment
Mari Rutka is the TDSB trustee for Willowdale
The provincial government’s recent freeze on all new major capital projects at the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) has put the planned expansion of Avondale Public School on ice. The Ministry of Education is citing the board’s capital deficit and cost overruns as the impetus for the freeze. But the local trustee, Mari Rutka, said her ward continues to be treated unfairly.
“We’re the threat for the rest of the board to behave itself,” Rutka said. “There is no other area in the city that has over-enrolment to the degree that Willowdale does.”
McKee Public School is at the root of the problem. New residents from the surrounding condos have filled it to capacity, even after the TDSB added to the existing building and put a portable on the property. The explosion in the student population has forced the board to bus kids out of their immediate neighbourhoods.
The planned expansion would allow Avondale to absorb overflow from three nearby schools, and for the board to redraw Willowdale’s boundaries to better assign students to schools according to their neighbourhoods. While the project was in the planning stages when the province issued the freeze, it had not yet gone to the board for approval.
“We’re the threat for the rest of the board to behave itself.”
According to the Ministry of Education’s letter to the TDSB, its freeze will be lifted when the TDSB produces an “acceptable” capital deficit recovery plan and ensures it has checks in place to stop costs from spiralling out of control.
“It’s important that education spending stays in the classroom,” Minister of Education Laurel Broten said. “Every dollar overspent on capital is a dollar we can’t use to support children in our schools, so we want to work closely and quickly with the TDSB to help them through these challenges.” It’s unclear as to how long this will take, and with the Avondale expansion originally slated to be completed by 2014, the trustee doesn’t know what will happen.