Kiyoko Fujimura

Buzzbuzzhome Corp.
September 7, 2010

The leaves are about to start changing, Toronto probably had its last heat wave last week, and students are back riding the TTC to school. But there’s one back-to-school experience that’s sure to be an interesting one– New North Toronto.

In 2002, students at North Toronto Collegiate pleaded for a new school. Their facilities just weren’t up to par. They had only one music room, despite the existence of a flagship program and they had the smallest high school library in the city.

So what’s a trustee to do? With little hope for extra funding, the Toronto District School Board got creative. They sold some of the land to Tridel to build The Republic [map] on either side of the school for $24 million to get the re-build off the ground.

While it might seem like a win-win situation, there’s definitely opposition to the project.

First, we’ll see how the condo dwellers enjoy the 7:45 a.m. band rehearsals and other issues that may arise due to the fact that they’re right next to a high school. Second, and more seriously, this sale of public land is indicative of an overarching trend that has the public worried.

According to the Toronto Star:

Former student Andy Georgiades is against selling any school grounds “because all public open space should be sacred for Canadians to enjoy. And selling property is not a sustainable way to fund new schools because eventually you run out of land.”

And he’s right. I mean, of course the TDSB has to do something in a pinch to secure funding, but this shouldn’t be a go-to plan and this isn’t the first time the TDSB has done something like this. A new school for the arts was funded by selling land near Yonge and Sheppard to a condo developer.

And neighbours of the school weren’t too happy about the land sale. But it was dealt with in a very diplomatic way. Ratepayer groups were asked to set limits on the towers being built which they set at 24 and 27 storeys. In addition, according to the Toronto Star:

“We got over that hurdle by working with the community and understanding what was important to them, which was more green space, so we designed a new field that will bring green space from Broadway Ave. right through to Roehampton Ave.” said Sheila Penny, the board’s head of strategic building and renewal.

So it sounds like, in this case, the community was involved in the process and decisions were made to ensure the project was beneficial to everyone involved– Tridel, the students, the TDSB and the community.

What I will say is this: the sale of public land should give pause for thought. Obviously these decisions need to be made on a case-by-case basis, but the TDSB should be careful not to sell off too many assets before they are left with little more than the land school buildings actually stand on.

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