Mayoral candidate Karen Stintz announced Tuesday that if elected, she would work with school boards, the province and the private sector to ensure school playing fields in Toronto are not sold off.
Speaking to reporters outside the playing field of Church Street Junior Public School, Ms. Stintz said she opposed the TDSB selling surplus property to generate revenue. “Because the province says there are 60,000 vacant spaces in the school board, the TDSB has to continue selling off land before they’ll change the funding formula. And I’m here to say that that’s not okay.”
As of December 31, 2013, 59 TDSB surplus properties have been sold, according to Daryl Sage of the Toronto Lands Corporation. Last June, The TDSB approved a plan to sell off closed school sites after the province imposed a funding freeze on the school board.
Ms. Stintz’s original release stated that she supported “consolidating and simplifying the operations of all playing fields – including those owned by school boards.”
She clarified in an interview that she would call on the province to ease pressure on school boards to sell off green space. Ms. Stintz also hopes to strike a partnership with school boards similar to the agreement where city and swim clubs can operate programs at school pools after school hours.
“We have a shared partnership agreement with the school pools – so the city and swim clubs operate programs after school hours. And so we already have a model of co-operation. What we need to do is commit to that model and expand that model so it includes the fields, and at some point, we actually can include the buildings as well,” she said.
Ms. Stintz said that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment is working with the city in a partnership to invest $1-million in capital contributions to upgrade fields in Toronto.
“With my council colleagues, we’re working through that partnership and what that would look like. And we’re working with the Toronto Sports Council so they can help us identify priorities to make that investment in.”
Ms. Stintz said she intends to bring more private-sector partners into the project, and to “double the number of fields our kids can play in” over the next ten years.
“We would have one place where you could get a permit for a field [for recreational purposes] – from a user perspective it’s irrelevant who owns the field.”
Ms. Stintz said she opposed the TDSB’s bid to have Razor Management build a seasonal domed stadium at Central Technical School, near Bathurst and Harbord Streets.
“There’s a community concern right now because the TDSB is having a private facility put a dome on the field – and it is limiting access for the general community, and we want to make sure we don’t see that as a new model ,” Ms. Stintz said.
Ms. Stintz also said Tuesday morning that a longer-term solution is needed to change the way the province funds the TDSB, saying the school board “has a funding formula that doesn’t consider aging infrastructure.”
“The Toronto District School Board is at a significant disadvantage relative to other school boards in the area. So we need to change that – but that’s a longer-term issue,” she said.
In response to questions about transit, Ms. Stintz continued to distance herself from candidates Olivia Chow and John Tory, saying she was the only candidate who had a plan to build the downtown relief line.
“Today it’s about the fields – but my transit plan includes extending the Bloor-Danforth Line to Sheppard. Olivia wants to go back and revisit a transit fight that has ended. I want to move our city forward.”
“And as for John Tory’s plan, it’s just simply off track.”