Parents impatient over stalled school

Elementary school students in Rougeville are finally on the waiting list for a new facility.

About 500 elementary aged children are currently attending two schools to the south of them that are rapidly becoming overcrowded, says a local trustee, and the situation is only going to get worse as new home construction continues.

Students wait out in the cold for a bus that takes them to Highcastle public school five kilometres away.

“This is a very pressing issue since there are no local schools for children to attend,” said Scarborough-Rouge River trustee Shaun Chen, adding all students are being transported to schools outside of the Sheppard Avenue East and Meadowvale Road area.

The majority go to either Chief Dan George or Highcastle public schools both are already over capacity, Chen said, and both are at least three kilometres away.

There are no guarantees the Toronto District School Board will approve of a new facility, Chen says, and even then construction would take a further two years.

Parents, meanwhile, are growing tired of waiting.

Tharsiga Mohan is anxious about her daughter, Ashanika, five, who is going to be in Grade 1 next year.

“We’ve been waiting for a new school for three years,” Mohan said. “My daughter is already a senior in Kindergarten, but nothing is happening yet.

“Whenever she goes to school, she has to wait for a bus outside. During the winter, it’s pretty cold.”

Some residents interviewed said home builders promoted both new elementary and Catholic high schools would be built in the community. However, the Toronto Catholic District School Board is not planning to build high schools at present.

“I find it very disturbing since builders have washed their hands on it,” said local resident Shamoon Poonawala.

“Builders don’t have to do anything as far as they’re concerned since it is the school board’s responsibility to build schools, but many people bought houses based on what the builders promised them.”

Working with the community, Chen eventually carried forward his motion for a new school and requested a staff report be due back at the end of November to determine if a facility could be feasible in terms of design, student utilization, and potential funding sources.
Toronto board officials have purchased land for a school in the northwest area of the community.

Board chair John Campbell says they are lacking financial resources at this time and the TDSB is reluctant to provide funding for new school buildings, especially with schools in other areas of the city running with only 50 or 60 per cent capacity.

But Chen doesn’t buy that argument, saying Scarborough-Rouge River is one of two wards in the city at 99 per cent of utilization.

“The main problem is that the Ontario province only considers the overall average,” he said.

“The option for the board might be to take a loan from the financial institution. That’s what I’ve asked the staff to look at, to see what type of options we have at the moment,” Chen said.