Simcoe County District School Board trustees expressed feelings of outrage and frustration at their business and facilities meeting last week after finding out the board would not be receiving any capital priority funding from the province through the most recent 2022-23 round.
During the May 4 meeting of the board, trustee tempers flared at the news that the board had been passed over. Director of education John Dance officially shared the news at the end of the meeting.
“A detailed review was completed of all business cases and after careful review of our board submission, we will not be receiving any capital priorities as part of the 2022-2023 capital priorities,” said Dance.
He noted that according to his correspondence with the Ministry of Education, the ministry received over 290 requests from 58 school boards for this round of funding, valued at $3.4 billion in capital spending. The province doled out about $500 million for the projects.
“We did not receive any of that,” said Dance.
Back in February, Ontario’s Ministry of Education made a surprise announcement to school boards that it would be accepting new business cases for capital priorities in 2022-23.
However, boards were told they could only submit five priorities instead of the usual 10, and two of them had to be new cases never before seen by the ministry. Boards were given two weeks to get their business cases in order.
The capital projects put forward by the SCDSB to the Ministry of Education for 2022-23 funding by the board in February were:
- New Angus elementary school
- New Alliston elementary school
- New Bradford secondary school
- Nantyr Shores Secondary School addition
- Ardagh Bluffs Public School addition
Orillia/Severn/Ramara trustee Jodi Lloyd said in a recent conference call with the Ministry of Education, then-minister Stephen Lecce said he was well-aware of the growth needs in Simcoe County.
“I don't think there are words to adequately express my ... outrage with the fact that we did not receive any capital money this time around,” said Lloyd.
“We have Collingwood and Wasaga Beach, which are the two fastest-growing communities, pretty well in the province. I would certainly like to know what the poor students in the community of Angus have done to be overlooked once again,” said Lloyd.
Lloyd noted that the board is expected to increase in size by 1,400 new students in the 2022-23 school year. She also said that the Toronto District School Board’s enrolment is expected to drop by 7,000 students in the same time period.
“I suspect a good portion of those are moving to Simcoe County,” she said.
“This just puts us significantly behind. It will negatively affect other projects that we've discussed,” said Lloyd. “Not to get even one project on this list is outrageous, in my opinion. It’s grossly unfair to these students.”
Lloyd also noted that Lecce has tweeted on multiple occasions acknowledging advocacy by Progressive Conservative MPPs for certain projects chosen for provincial funding.
Grateful for @CHogarthPC’s advocacy for the families in Etobicoke Lakeshore, as we announce — $19.4M for a NEW St. Elizabeth Catholic Elementary School.— Stephen Lecce (@Sflecce) April 26, 2022
Supporting families & kids with 600 student spaces & 88 licensed child care spaces!
“The minister himself called into question the validity of the process,” said Lloyd. “He didn't acknowledge that it was evaluated based upon need but he celebrated and recognized Conservative MPPs who got schools and the work that they did to get those schools. I want to stress that I think that's where the concern is.”
Adjala-Tosorontio/Clearview/CFB Borden/Essa trustee Robert North said capital priorities are a major pressure point at the board. He said the No. 1 priority this time around — an Angus elementary school — is so needed as right now there are between 10 and 13 portables at elementary schools within a kilometre of each other and overflow students are being bused to Baxter.
“Based on the timelines for the next capital call, that could be a number of years out and that puts all of our communities well behind. Anywhere that needs capital investment is going to be waiting a very long time,” said North.
Collingwood/Wasaga Beach trustee Tanya Snell said she hoped Simcoe County families considered the oversight when they vote provincially in three weeks.
“I really hope that the media is paying attention to this meeting and that they can help to vocalize it to parents and to people in the community to get loud and noisy with this election,” she said. “(I hope) they really have their voices heard because our students are the ones that are paying the price of the decisions of this current government.”