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Old July 23rd, 2005, 12:50 AM   #1
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$4 Billion for Ontario school repairs

$4 Billion for Ontario school repairs


In a Toronto school in such bad shape it was called unworthy of carrying Nelson Mandela's name, the premier and education minister rolled out a $4 billion plan to repair and replace crumbling schools.

"This is a good school, but it is not a good building and in some ways it doesn't deserve the name the board gave it," Education Minister Gerard Kennedy said yesterday, referring to crumbling brickwork and windows that haven't been replaced since the Shuter St. school now called Nelson Mandela Public School was built in 1916.

Under the "good places to learn" program, the province will provide $280 million over three years for school boards. That money will allow them to obtain $4 billion in loans to repair, upgrade and replace old schools.

The initiative and the funding was announced in February. Yesterday, Kennedy outlined how this year's money ? $75 million from the province, to obtain $1 billion for repairs in 1,400 schools ? would be spent.

But the funding doesn't come close to covering the backlog of needed repairs.

Toronto Catholic board chair Oliver Carroll recently told the Toronto Star that it would take $5 billion to $6 billion over 15 years just to make Toronto's 750 public and separate schools state-of-the-art buildings.

The Toronto District School Board, for example, had a $774 million backlog of building renewal work in 2004-05 even though it spent more than $87 million on repairs and renovations.

In October, the government will announce 120 Ontario schools that will have to be rebuilt because they are in such bad shape there's no point in repairing them.

Renewal projects already underway include new windows for 165 schools, 290 roof repairs and 202 projects to improve and replace boilers.

Of this year's funding, $1.2 million will go to Nelson Mandela Public School to replace rotting wood windows, repair crumbling brick work that has been falling into the schoolyard, and put in new lights.

"You can't imagine what it's been like for students in this school who sit in cold, cold rooms, with drafty windows in the wintertime, and pieces of masonry falling off the building," said Sheila Ward, chair of the Toronto District School Board. "The message that that gives to students is that they don't matter and they're not important."

Fixing schools is a key part of improving the education system, Kennedy said.

"It is an effort that may not be as obvious as the extra teachers that we're adding, maybe not as clear-cut as the books we're buying," he said.

Premier Dalton McGuinty linked the condition of schools to students' ability to learn: "Students have a much better chance of success when they learn in schools that are clean, safe and in good repair."

"More repair and renewal will take place over the next 18 months than has occurred over the last 10 years,'' he added.

Yesterday's announcement still does nothing to help school boards deal with the problem of small and underpopulated schools, an increasingly prevalent problem given that enrolment is declining in most parts of the province.

There is still no money to heat and light classrooms that are ineligible for funding because the boards don't have sufficient enrolment to justify that space under the provincial rules, said Annie Kidder, of the parents group, People for Education.

With files from Tess Kalinowski
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Old July 23rd, 2005, 03:40 AM   #2
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The school i go to in wiarton, is being rebuilt at the moment becuz the high school is in such a state of disrepair.
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Old July 23rd, 2005, 04:06 AM   #3
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About time. There are so many old schools in Hamilton that needs major fixing up. Maybe this will finally help Delta High School get rid of their nickname as “Dirty Delta”.
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Old July 23rd, 2005, 11:22 PM   #4
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