Ontario's Good Places To Learn Initiative
"I recommend that the Ministry of Education ... allocate a new strategic investment of $200 million annually to a 'deferred maintenance amortization fund,' which would fund the principal and interest costs of school boards' payments to service the debts boards would incur in borrowing funds so that they could begin to address their deferred maintenance needs."
Ontario's Good Places to Learn Initiative
The government has announced a school renewal program to help fund $2.1 billion worth of repairs and renovations in schools across the province. This program will improve the conditions of schools substantially and respond to the most pressing needs identified in a provincewide school-by-school review. Improvements could include:
- Repairing roofs, electrical and plumbing
- Making schools more functional, that is, issues related to accessibility, indoor air quality and Internet access
- Creating specialized teaching spaces in elementary schools, including libraries
- Creating specialized teaching spaces in secondary schools, including gymnasia, libraries and technology workshops in regional schools and upgrades to science labs in schools constructed before 1985.
In addition, school boards will continue to receive grants worth $320 million each year for renewal and repair.
Here's how the new program will work:
An additional $200 million will be available each year in a new amortization fund.
Boards will be expected to arrange financing to enable them to undertake additional repair and renovation work over the next few years, using their share of the fund to cover the cost of servicing that financing. The $200 million fund is expected to generate $2.1 billion in financing.
Funding allocation on a board-by-board basis will be available soon.
Before these funds may be accessed, boards will be required to develop and submit long-term capital plans that identify strategies to address issues that boards may face with respect to enrolment pressures or surplus space, and plans to use their share of the annual $200 million to improve the condition of their schools over the next few years.
Here is what Ontarians have been hearing about the state of their schools:
"The walls are crumbling down. So are the ceilings. Window frames are so rotten that when it rains outside, it pours inside. There's lead in the water. Electrical systems are so antiquated that if someone plugs in a kettle, the power goes out somewhere else in the building."
(Toronto Star, March 20, 2004)
"One of the primary motivating factors is making sure that kids have equal opportunity with regards to the new curriculum ... some of the older buildings are just not equipped to meet the new curriculum. We call them functionally obsolete. They're not falling down around our feet, but they're not functioning properly for student needs."
(Mississauga News, April 11, 2004)
"The building's science labs and computer capabilities are also unable to keep up with the demands of the 21st century classroom ... noting the building's sprawling layout is a constant impediment to efforts at wiring. The building itself appears solid, but there are obvious signs of wear and tear around every corner ..."
(Richmond Hill Liberal News, March 21, 2004)
"Piping to and from the boiler needs to be replaced ... There's no water pressure in the drinking fountains. The cafeteria is intended for 400 students, but roughly 1,800 students attend the school. The single-paned windows need replacing ...The brick is literally falling from the building ..."
(Ajax & Pickering News Advertiser -- News, February 25, 2004)
"We've been begging and pleading for money for years now with no reward ... our school is rapidly falling apart. Other students described poor lighting in 'hot and foul-smelling' classrooms, three washrooms for over 700 female students, and how embarrassing it is to have visitors at the school."
(Ajax & Pickering News Advertiser -- News, February 5, 2004)
"The school has undergone five or six additions. It is 50 years old and needs new plumbing, a new roof and upgrades to electricity and the heating and cooling system."
(The Windsor Star, May 14, 2004)
"Parents are concerned about allergies to mould and increasing occurrences of asthma. They question how the board determines if mould exists between the walls and they say the lack of air conditioning will force them to keep children with asthma home on hot days. Children have voiced concerns about the 'smell' in the portables and complained they were cold in the winter."
(The Hamilton Spectator, April 28, 2004)
"Students will have to continue to live with buckets catching rainwater from the ceiling ..."
(Flamborough Review, April 23, 2004)
"These schools were built before computers became an integral part of the learning program, so they don't have specialized computer labs to meet the current curriculum requirements for technology. And that's just one example of the way in which space in older schools may not meet current learning needs ..."
(The Sheridan Sun, March 25, 2004)
"Parents pushed the school board to temporarily relocate all students and staff until the school passes air quality standards."
(The Sudbury Star, December 17, 2003)
"Fears of high levels of carbon dioxide and mould in classrooms and a washroom escalated this year as parents came forward with tales of children suffering mysterious ailments."
(The Sudbury Star, November 6, 2003)
"The problem with the old configuration ... is students would fiddle with the water and gas taps while they were at the desks, causing costly damage."
(London Free Press, January 17, 2004)
"There's four classrooms that are leaking ... other photographs showed extensive dark brown water stains on ceiling tiles in classrooms and on walls beneath windows, and a wooden wheelchair-access ramp that is warped and sagging on one side."
(The Record, September 16, 2004)
"Our school could be in the Bronx and fit in no problem ... the cooling system doesn't work, making yesterday's classroom temperatures soar over 30 degrees. There are also asbestos concerns, electrical problems and to top it all off ... drainage backs up in the school yard each spring creating a pond."
(The Peterborough Examiner, June 25, 2003)
"The science rooms, which have been deemed too small and not adequate for the current curriculum, are first on the list for upgrades."
(Daily Miner & News - Kenora, ON, December 6, 2003)