The TDSB’s billion-dollar repair backlog means schools like Northern Secondary are in disrepair

A parent gives us a first-hand look at the degraded bathrooms, broken windows and peeling paint.


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A parent of a Northern Secondary School student took photos of the school’s degraded bathroom, including this broken window, in September 2015.

This is the second in a mutli-part series on the state of Toronto’s public schools. Check back later in the week for the rest of our coverage. Yesterday’s was on the possible sale of some of the John Fisher P.S. property.

With a repair backlog amounting to $3.3 billion and only $150 million donated by the province toward that backlog last year, 136 of the Toronto District School Board’s (TDSB) schools are considered to be in “critical” condition. Some are in North Toronto.

Krista Wylie, co-founder of the Fix Our Schools campaign, has heard many accounts of broken boilers, freezing cold classrooms and rundown bathrooms from parents and teachers. In some cases, Wylie said the bathrooms are in such poor shape that they’ve even affected students’ health.

“I’ve heard of stories from parents where their children refuse to go to the washroom during any given school day and they end up with bladder infections.…” she said.

Naturally, Wylie said, parents aren’t usually willing to divulge that information about their child to the press, but she stressed that she’s heard similar accounts on a number of different occasions. “I’ve heard that many many times. It’s not just a one-off child that’s particularly persnickety … and it’s legitimate: [the washrooms] are disgusting in many cases,” she added.

Scott de Veber is a local parent of a student who attends Northern Secondary School — a high school near Yonge and Eglinton that has 1,850 students and was built in 1930 — and can attest to the rundown conditions Wylie said some schools are in.

De Veber said he attended a curriculum night at Northern Secondary School in September 2015.

“I was there for a curriculum night, and in doing so visited the washroom and was quite surprised to see that the condition was quite degraded,” he said.


The peeling paint inside Northern Secondary

 

So he took photos of the conditions on his phone. 

“What’s important to stress is that it’s not so much things that are small or things like soap in the dispensers or toilet paper. It’s more infrastructure, capital improvement related work that’s needed. Crumbling window frames, [and] there was a broken window, which I believe has since been fixed,” he added.

De Veber said there are many other places in the school, outside of the bathrooms, where there is “physical degradation of the structure or peeling paint,” and although he admitted that the damage seems to be mostly cosmetic, he still sees it as a problem. However, he said he believes that the principal, the school and the janitorial staff have “done all that they can with what they have.”

Ward 11 TDSB trustee Shelley Laskin said the principal and students have found innovative ways to address the problems, like painting the lockers and wallpapering the walls of the bathroom with decor designed by the students.

“When there is a real health and safety issue, like a window broken, that does get repaired very quickly,” she said. But ultimately, Laskin admitted that esthetic issues don’t rank high on the TDSB’s priority list in terms of repairs.

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