Even though summer has just begun, it (unfortunately) won't be long until the families of Don Valley West begin preparing for the upcoming school year. Limited school capacity is a critical issue for families across Ward 15, particularly in the neighbourhoods immediately north and south of Eglinton Avenue. While building new schools remains within the jurisdiction of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), I've worked closely with the TDSB to pursue new strategies to address school capacity issues in Ward 15 and across Toronto.
After a monumental community effort opposing the tower development at John Fisher Public School, the TDSB implemented a new policy to ensure they are involved in the evaluation of major development applications. In many cases, this means actively opposing development applications in neighbourhoods where the existing school capacity is not sufficient to accommodate new students in the area. I have raised the issue of school capacity during the development review process on several occasions but without direct involvement from the TDSB. Going forward, I'm optimistic that the TDSB's support will help us to secure better outcomes for our communities.
Over the past eight years, I've been advocating for a moratorium, or "hold", on development in neighbourhoods where there is inadequate infrastructure, community amenities, and schools to support a growing population. Last month, North York Community Council received a letter from the TDSB requesting a hold on the approval of a development proposal in the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood for the first time. The TDSB's letter cited the lack of schools in the area and requested a pause on the application until it could be determined that there was sufficient school capacity to support the additional density.
As you may know, Provincial legislation prevents the TDSB from collecting educational development charges (EDCs). The current regulations prevent school boards with excess capacity in any area from accessing the money that developers pay to the schools' system when they build new sites. Due to declining enrollment in certain parts of Toronto, the TDSB will never meet this essential requirement. Funding from development charges could be used to improve school capacity in high-growth areas and support urgent school infrastructure needs.
Until we see major change on this front, I will continue to work with the TDSB to respond to development applications on a case-by-case basis in our neighbourhood. It's critical to ensure that the City has adequate hard and soft infrastructure to support additional residential density before issuing building permits.
I was honoured to speak at the graduating ceremonies of several esteemed schools in Ward 15. I wish all the graduates of Bedford Park Public School, Hodgson Middle School, Northlea Public School, and Leaside High School (as well as those whose graduation I did not attend!) the very best in the next chapter of their lives.