The Toronto District School board is considering selling off parts of their schoolyards to raise more money for the cash-strapped board.
Trustees gave the green light at a meeting Wednesday evening for the public board staff to examine every school in the city and report back in October on how many have land that can be sold and severed.
Last week, the cash-strapped school board voted in a budget with deep cuts to combat an estimated $110-million shortfall.
Some trustees say that internal documents suggest the board could sell 100 pieces of land, shortlisted from 600 potential sites, for an estimated $1-million each and a total of $100-million.
“This is going to make a lot of parents unhappy,” said trustee Chris Glover of the land sale study proposal.
He said staff estimated site evaluations would likely cost the board up to $25,000 per site.
“I think it’s a very expensive study to undertake and then we’re committed to taking that action of selling land,” Mr. Glover said.
Under provincial rules, the money from the land sale cannot be used to fund school programs or staff. It could, however, be put towards the $3-billion maintenance and repair backlog at the TDSB.
But Chair Chris Bolton said the “numbers floating out there” on the amount of land and the potential revenue are premature – given that staff has yet to investigate the issue.
“And you have to remember that real estate downtown just doesn’t have the same market value as real estate farther away,” he said.
Neither the education nor the TDSB have a minimum size for school playgrounds.
“We don’t have any schools in mind and this will be done responsibly in consultation with local communities,” Mr. Bolton said. “We have to look at the whole picture – how this will affect the schoolyard as a whole and community green space as well.”
He did, however, suggest a school, Ryerson Community School near Dundas and Bathurst streets, from his own downtown ward that could potentially lose some playground space.
Student trustee Jenny Williams voiced concern over reduced access to playgrounds and green spaces for students.
“We know that access to green space benefit students greatly, so we’ll really have to look at this study carefully,” she said. “If the land is, for example, close to a park, then I would say we would be more inclined to sever it than if it was in some tight urban space in downtown Toronto.”
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