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NEWS: A $9.4-million school with a view

June 14th, 2016 · No Comments

New facility to include childcare spaces

By Annemarie Brissenden

Local Catholic elementary school students will soon have a new school with a view.

The Ontario government has announced that it will spend $9.4 million on a new school to be built where St. Raymond Catholic School currently sits on Barton Avenue, overlooking Christie Pits. The new school — which hasn’t yet been christened with a name — is consolidating St. Raymond’s and St. Bruno Catholic School, both of which are under capacity. The facility will also include a daycare on site, adding 49 childcare spaces to the neighbourhood.

“This is a huge win for the school,” said Philippe Jargaille, chair of the St. Raymond’s parents’ council. He explained that the St. Raymond’s and St. Bruno’s school communities have undergone a three-year accommodation review process during which both schools were evaluated, enrolment examined, and the physical state of the facilities considered.

“The Ministry of Education wants to spend more money in the classroom, and less on bricks and mortar,” said Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) trustee Jo-Ann Davis (Ward 9, St. Paul’s, Toronto-Centre, Trinity-Spadina). “It was cheaper to build a new school than to repair St. Raymond’s.”

“This is a huge win for the school”—Philippe Jargaille, chair, St. Raymond’s parents’ council

The Ministry of Education uses a facility condition index (FCI) to assess the condition of a building that states the cost of repairs as a ratio of its replacement value. An FCI of less than 10 is deemed good, while buildings with an FCI of 65 or higher are deemed critical. Although St. Bruno’s has a reasonable FCI of 23.17, St. Raymond’s — at 66.51 — has one of the top FCI’s in the TCDSB.

“The review process is a little stressful at the parents’ end,” said Jargaille, “but the board said that if we amalgamated the two schools and increased the population, we’d have a better chance for money for a new school.”

After three years of uncertainty, it’s clear that parents are welcoming the future. St. Peter’s Church on Bathurst Street serves the St. Raymond’s school community, and its pastor, Rev. Michael McGourty, suggested that “speculation that the school would close contributed to low enrolment.”

Davis acknowledged that accommodation reviews “are hard to go through. People have a lot of connection to their school, and there are cases where parents went to the school as well as the children.”

“Trustee Davis is very mindful that the school board has to manage [its] assets more efficiently,” said Han Dong (MPP, Trinity-Spadina), whose office made the announcement.

Plans for the new school have yet to be drawn up, but it will accommodate up to 350 students in addition to the 49 childcare spots, and Jargaille said that he hopes it will make use of the prime location over-looking Christie Pits.

“The access to the park provides incredible opportunities,” agreed Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina). “It’s an incredible asset; the board is right in suggesting they should invest in it.”

Layton added that he believes that St. Bruno’s should be retained and transformed into some sort of community hub.

“It doesn’t make much sense for any level of government to sell off land like that,” said Layton. “We have to hang onto our [community] assets, because having to buy them back is very expensive. If we can adaptively re-use the site, we should do so.”

Although Davis stresses that St. Bruno’s is not going anywhere for a while (it will be home to the consolidated school while the new facility is built on the St. Raymond’s site), she wants to “hold on to community assets, including schools, because once something is gone, it’s gone.

“I’ll be meeting with potential community partners to see if we can co-locate.”

Dong would also like “to see St. Bruno’s remain as a community hub. It should stay in the community and serve the community; it’s not going to be condos.”

“It’s quite clear to me: there is tremendous growth with all neighbourhoods in the community,” said Layton. “People are having kids in the neighbourhood, and want to raise children in Toronto. It’s exciting, but we want to make sure we have the core services to meet needs.”

Davis, who characterized the number of families moving back into the city as a mini baby boom, pointed out that “there is not enough public space in Toronto, so the city is looking at school boards to solve planning problems”.

She said she wants to ensure that students have a good learning environment, while balancing the need for a community hub.

“I am very much looking forward to the new school,” said Dong. “It’s going to give the neighbourhood a new life.”

 

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