Toronto’s elementary teachers union is warning the majority of schools that could be closed by the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) are in the city’s poorer neighbourhoods.
The Elementary Teachers of Toronto says the closures could create upheaval for thousands of students who already face steep odds.
According to the teachers’ union, “the targeted schools disproportionately affect the TDSB’s most vulnerable students.”
John Smith, the president of the union, told CityNews about two-thirds of TDSB’s elementary schools considered for closure are in poorer neighbourhoods.
“Up to sixty per cent of those schools that are under threat serve the most vulnerable students in our system,” Smith said.
The review is being conducted as part of Education Minister Liz Sandals’ three-year plan after the province released a scathing report of the board.
The TDSB’s Learning Opportunities Index, which is released every two years, looks at the challenges facing students at every school, such as family income and lone parent families, and “schools with the highest index are those where the students face the greatest external challenges to their learning.”
Forty per cent, or 19 schools, slated for reorganization are in the top fifth of the index.
The union also says the targeted schools are the nucleus of their communities, since they provide daycare space, room for social events, recreation activities and language programs.
Almost half of the 48 schools have daycare programs and more than three-quarters offer community activities.
“Most of them are community hubs, most of them have community programs in them, childcares, parenting centres,” Smith said.
Moreover, the teachers’ union said a majority of the 48 elementary schools “will see enrollment increase in the next 20 years.”
The union expects the population to grow at most of the schools in 20 years, with 60 per cent reaching a utilization rate of 65 per cent — the benchmark used by TDSB in recent reviews.
The report also suggests that 114 elementary schools, out of the total 473 elementary schools, are over capacity.
Smith told CityNews the teachers are not raising these concerns over fears of job losses as teachers would simply be re-located if schools closed.
The TDSB is working towards a Friday deadline set by the province to implement 13 recommendations prompted by a scathing report of the board, which suggested there was a “culture of fear.”
The board, which met last week, will be holding another special meeting on Tuesday.
With files from Melanie Ng