Toronto schools face $3.4 billion repair backlog
A list of Toronto's best and worst schools when it comes to needed repairs
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Amidst a $3.4 billion repair backlog, the Toronto District School Board is opening its books on the conditions of its almost 600 schools — the good and the bad.
The move is a first for a school board in Ontario and comes days before the Ministry of Education is expected to release the same information for every school in the province.
The TDSB’s release of its Facility Condition Index numbers for its 588 schools on Monday, unlike the ministry’s list, also includes a complete list of all repairs needed at each school.
The release of the index — a sort of testing score for bricks and mortar — comes at a time when the board estimates it needs to spend $3.4 billion to complete repairs. Although a recent $1.1 billion funding announcement by the province is helping, TDSB chair Robin Pilkey said much more cash is still needed.
“There isn’t enough money in the system right now. We can only get money from the province,” Pilkey said.
The Facility Condition Index is an industry-standard term that measures the condition of a building. It’s calculated by taking the total cost of repairs, and dividing it by the replacement value of the building. The TDSB considers anything below 10 per cent to be in “good” condition. Between 10 and 30 per cent is “fair,” while between 30 and 65 per cent is “poor.” Anything higher than 65 per cent is considered “critical.”
In 2015, there were 226 schools — 38 per cent of all TDSB schools — listed as being in “critical” condition.
But Pilkey stressed the numbers have nothing to do with safety.
“Obviously, if it was a safety issue we would fix that … We’re not sending our kids to schools in unsafe buildings. That would be ridiculous,” she said.
Instead, the repair backlogs show work that needs to be done, sometimes imminently, even if it’s not a direct problem right now, Pilkey said.
“It’s like your house. If your roof is 30 years old, your roof might not leak, but you know at some point in the very near future you need a new roof,” she said. All repairs — anything from a broken door handle, to a busted boiler — are counted in the FCI.
The board wants to be transparent and disclose this information so that parents can understand what their child’s school needs, Pilkey said. The numbers won’t be released together. Instead, parents can go to the website of their child’s school and see its FCI and list of needed repairs.
“It is public information and we’re happy to share it with the public,” she said.
The FCI data is gathered by the Ministry of Education, but the ministry has so far declined to release it. When asked for comment on the TDSB’s announcement, Education Minister Mitzie Hunter said in a statement the province was planning on releasing the same numbers “in the coming days.”
Advocates are applauding the move. Krista Wylie, co-founder of the Fix Our Schools campaign, said she was happy with the release of the data.
“They’re showing, I think, a degree of leadership in transparency in issuing all of this information,” Wylie said.
“For us and for our campaign it underscores the reality of what we’ve been talking about for two years now,” she said.
Some of the repairs might come as a surprise to parents, Wylie said. Old boilers and roofs are not visible the way that cracks in walls are, and the repair backlog list will show these for the first time.
“For many parents who aren’t inside the schools and who are busy, I think this will be a bit of a wake-up call,” she said, adding she hopes any backlash doesn’t come in the direction of the TDSB.
“They are being very transparent and demonstrating leadership in a way the Ministry has not,” she said.
Hunter, in her statement, stressed the province’s previous funding announcements for Ontario schools.
“Investing in our schools is one of the most important infrastructure investments we can make for nearly 2 million students in Ontario and we remain committed to working with school boards to ensure that students have safe and healthy environments in which to learn,” Hunter said.
Pilkey said she’s ready for parents to come to her with questions once they see this data.
“That would be kind of encouraging to me because you could justify the decision because people are interested.”
State of Toronto’s schools
Here are the schools with the highest and lowest ratings on the Facility Condition Index (FCI) at the TDSB. The higher the FCI score, the bigger the state of disrepair a school is in — though other factors, like the replacement value of the school, also affect the numbers.
Schools in most need of repair
Park Lane Public School - 197.93%
The school, located in Toronto’s Bridle Path neighbourhood and serving students with developmental disabilities, needs two urgent and 18 high-priority repairs. They include carpets, water pipes, and the main switchboard. Lower-priority repairs include doors and roof coverings.
Jesse Ketchum Jr. & Sr. Public School - 121.03%
The school, located in Yorkville, needs eight urgent and 44 high-priority repairs. Urgent repairs include the interior stairs, two steam boilers and the hot and cold water pipes.
Winona Drive Sr. Public School - 119.22%
The school, near Wychwood, has four hot water boilers that need to be urgently replaced. Interior stairs and elevators also need to be replaced. In total, there are 23 urgent repairs needed.
Deer Park Jr. & Sr. Public School - 114.19 %
The school, just east of Yonge St. and north of St. Clair, needs six urgent repairs, including the replacement of two boilers, the water pipes, main switchboard and emergency lighting.
Earl Grey Sr. Public School - 109.89 %
The school, on Strathcona Ave., south of Danforth Ave., needs 15 urgent repairs, including the replacement of the fire alarm systems, two boilers and exterior doors.
Schools needing fewest repairs
Thomas L. Wells P.S. - 0.00%
The school, located in a corner of Scarborough not far from the Toronto Zoo, serves a “large multicultural community.” It opened in September 2005, and has no repairs currently listed.
Fraser Mustard Early Learning Academy - 0.34%
The school, in Thorncliffe Park, opened in September 2013 and serves only Junior and Senior Kindergarten students. There are no repairs currently listed.
North Toronto CI - 0.54%
The school, near Yonge and Eglinton, was renovated and reopened in September 2010. The renovation turned one of the TDSB’s oldest buildings into a showpiece. Currently no repairs are listed.
Humberwood Downs JMA - 1.24%
The school, in north Etobicoke, has seven high-priority repairs, including spot repairs of exterior walls and foundations, as well as replacing exterior doors.
Claude Watson School for the Arts - 1.26%
The school, near Yonge St. and Sheppard Ave., currently has no repairs listed.