Construction rattles school families

Parent Taylor Roberts stands outside the TDSB meeting room holding a sign to protest the construction at John Fisher Public School. (Tiara Jade/Toronto Observer)

The Toronto District School Board meeting was packed on March 22 as parents of students attending John Fisher Junior Public School came to protest.

At the meeting, trustees passed a motion that will allow staff to decide where students will be relocated if their parents want to avoid a major construction project next door to the school. Trustees Shelley Laskin and Gerri Gershon drafted the proposal.

“This motion allows staff to bring to us a fair, transparent and orderly distribution of the students,” Gershon said. “It will allow parents to access their home schools in most instances, but it will be impossible in some cases.”

John Fisher is a French immersion school with 500 students in the Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue area. Originally the project next door was expected to be condos, but that later shifted to a high-rise apartment building with 315 rental units. The construction will begin this summer, immediately adjacent to the school and its yard, and it’s expected to last two years.

The developer, KG Group, says that it has an excellent construction safety record, and the neighbours will be unaffected as the apartment building goes up. But some parents say that at the very least, there will be vibration, noise and dust. The TDSB says it’s assessing the risk from construction, and a report on that will be released in April.

In the meantime, some parents are threatening to pull their children out of the school anyway. Neighbouring schools are already capped, meaning that registration has been closed. Parents say that no details about the future of their children’s school have been communicated to them.

“John Fisher is a highly successful French immersion school. The students achieve and learn,” Trustee Laskin said. “Parents… are extremely supportive.”

Taylor Roberts, a parent with a son attending John Fisher, was one of many who held up signs during the meeting. He explained that his concern is the risk that the construction will pose to the children. He and other parents are hoping Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne will intervene.

“I remain optimistic’” Roberts said. “I look forward to our meeting with Premier Wynne.”