Weeks after their school was destroyed by fire, the York Memorial C.I. community now tasked with deciding where high school students will go to school in September.
The Toronto District School Board held a meeting Tuesday night, outlining two options. The first is to stay at George Harvey C.I., where York Memorial students have already been re-located for the rest of the year. The two schools would operate in the same building but as separate entities. George Harvey is on Keele Street, less than a kilometre away from York Memorial. The second option is to re-locate York Memorial to Scarlett Heights E.A., which is currently closed. The building is 5.3 km away from York Memorial, but would give students and staff a building of their own.
“We’re hoping that in the days ahead that decision will be made,” says Toronto District School Board spokesperson Ryan Bird. “Right now we’re gathering everyone’s input, their preferences, more information to put together for a report that will then go to the board for a final decision.”
Students were told of the two options today. Each building has its own pros and cons. The board did not say how much either option would cost but the TDSB wants to make a decision before this school year is up so administrators can plan over the summer.
George Harvey currently has about 500 students, but has capacity to host up to 1,536 pupils. With the two schools under one roof, the building would host about 1,400 students. However, it has classes would have to share specialized rooms like science labs, art rooms, gyms, the library, cafeteria and pool. The school also has one sports field, so when students need a second, they’ll have to go to Keelesdale Park, about 1.5 km away. York Memorial students would also displace an adult education program at George Harvey, fording it to find a new home. However, as George Harvey is up and running, and in the neighbourhood, it could host York Memorial students with minimal upgrades or changes to kids’ routines.
“You have to be a student to really understand how it is to be in those hallways at lunchtime, after school. It’s chaotic and we just don’t feel at home.”
– York Memorial student Josselyn Pacheco
Most of the students CityNews spoke to on Wednesday were in favour of moving to a separate building.
If the students were to move to the former Scarlett Heights, the school would be holding more students than it was designed for. The school can fit 840 students – about 54 shy of York Memorial’s projected enrollment of 894 pupils next year. The building also doesn’t have a pool, as George Harvey does. But, the school has enough classrooms and specialized spaces for students, including a spots fields. As the school has been closed, the TDSB would have to bring in furniture and supplies, as well as conduct maintenance. Further, 522 of York Memorial’s students live far enough away from the school, that they would need transportation to get to school.
A massive six-alarm fire broke out at York Memorial on May 7, causing significant damage to the 90-year-old building. While there is extensive smoke and water damage, the building is likely salvageable. The Ontario Fire Marshal’s office is investigating the cause of the blaze. There is no determination so far as to the cause, or whether or not the fire was suspicious.
On Wednesday, the lead investigator received CCTV footage from the school, multiple videos from multiple cameras, will be going through that footage minute-by-minute. The Fire Marshal’s office expects the investigation will take months.