The Toronto Catholic District School Board’s $1.3 billion backlog for repairs is affecting maintenance of aging schools, said Deborah Friesen, executive superintendent of facilities services for the TCDSB.
Friesen said that although the TCDSB is constantly working to fix damages reported by schools, many factors influence the time that it takes. Damages have to be triaged to prioritize those that relate to the health and safety of students and staff, but this can leave many other things unfixed.
The TCDSB receives around $51 million for repairs and improvements every year, but its billion-dollar backlog, along with the board’s aging schools, is going to result in damages that are not getting repaired fast enough, said Emmy Szekeres Milne, the senior co-ordinator of communications for the board.
A broken radiator is exposed in the boys’ bathroom at Bishop Allen Academy in Etobicoke, Ont. (Courtesy – Oles Lazouka)
Recently, students at Bishop Allen Academy Catholic Secondary School in Etobicoke, Ont., complained of damages throughout their school, such as missing bathroom stall doors, falling ceiling tiles and heating problems throughout the building.
“There has always been issues at BA, at least as long as I have been there, but they seem to be getting worse. We have holes in the walls, broken bathroom stall doors and locks, and the heating’s always messed up… Last week my history class had to be moved to the cafeteria because it was so hot we couldn’t go into our class,” Bella Iacovone, a Grade 11 student at Bishop Allen, said in an interview.
Bishop Allen has been one of the top-rated Catholic high schools in Etobicoke for years. But recently students have taken to social media to express their concerns about the school’s building structure and facilities.
A broken stall door lies across the boys’ bathroom floor at Bishop Allen Academy in Etobicoke, Ont. (Courtesy – Alek J.)
“On the second floor, there’s a washroom with one stall. The door to the stall has fallen off, and it’s just been on the floor for about two years now. Toilets are continually clogged, the walls are covered in graffiti, and we’d be lucky to find soap in any soap dispensers, if the dispensers are there at all,” Alek J., a Bishop Allen student in Grade 12, said in an interview.
Freisen said that broken heating systems in schools are one of their top priorities. In the case of Bishop Allen’s missing bathroom stall door, the TCDSB is still waiting on parts to be delivered in order to replace it.
Students have been describing how waiting for these damages to be repaired has been affecting them.
“It’s really hard to feel comfortable or safe at Bishop Allen. It’s so crowded and there’s always something wrong with something,” said Iacovone.
Alek J. believes that students “should first feel safe in our school environment before being ready to learn.”
Friesen said that student safety is always their primary concern, but some repairs, such as cosmetic ones, are simply not high on their priority list.
These types of maintenance concerns are not solely affecting Bishop Allen Academy and a backlog in deferred maintenance is not isolated to the Catholic board, according to the TCDSB.
Water damage is peeling off the ceiling tiles in a classroom at Bishop Allen Academy, in Etobicoke Ont. (Courtesy – Alek J.)