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No sale for excess TDSB lands

Two Scarborough Elementary Schools which are affected by the TDSB’s decision not to sell off excess green spaces in order to generate funds for the schools

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) decided not to sell excess land in order to build more classrooms for students and generate much-needed income for the institutes. In the proposed plan, schools with larger plots of land would sell off their unused green spaces in an income-generating attempt.

The refusal to sell the lands has left six Toronto school expansions in question, two of which reside in Scarborough.

Both Alexander Stirling Public School, located at 70 Fawcett Trail, and Highcastle Public school at 370 Military Trail, have been affected by the decision, leaving the schools still in want for funding.

Shaun Chen, who is waiting for approval for a four-room addition to Alexander Sterling Public School, located in Ward 21 where he is trustee and vice chair, believes that despite the divide in opinion on the selling of TDSB lands, it is undeniable that an abundance of revenue is being forfeited.

“Trustees took various positions on the proposed capital plan, which was ultimately defeated by a vote of 15-7,” Chen said. “The plan included $112 million in projected revenues from the sale of lands severed from operating school sites over the next three years.”

It is believed that the green spaces that were proposed to be sold off are intricate parts of the school environment and not disposable. This refusal to sell results in an unchanged capital spending freeze and a halt on many, although not all, plans for expansion. With an increase in enrollment, the funding for school site expansion is much sought after.

Jerry Chadwick, trustee for Ward 22, Scarborough East, the home of Highcaslte Public school, contends that the decision is not the end all and be all for all Scarborough elementary school expansions.

“The Ministry of Education has put a ‘pause’ on all our capital projects until we revise the capital plan and submit it for approval. We do not know the timeline on this issue,” Chadwick said. “However, the original plan has not been altered and once approved a Highcastle addition will go ahead. If it is not completed in time for September 2013, which is very doubtful now, contingency plans will be made to accommodate all students.”

With the completion of the approval for the Highcastle expansion unlikely in time for the new school year, questions of the balance of importance between the unused green spaces and over-used classrooms are left unanswered.