Toronto

School repair backlog hits $3.4B: TDSB

An online guide launched Monday by the Toronto District School Board lets parents know exactly how badly in need of repair their local school is, and if you add up all those repairs across the entire system the total comes to $3.4 billion, the board says.

But student safety not compromised, board insists

Toronto's public schools, with an average age of 60 years, are in desperate need of repairs, the Toronto District School Board said Monday, as it launched an online guide that shows exactly what repairs are awaiting funding at each of its 588 schools. (Neil Herland/CBC)

An online guide launched Monday by the Toronto District School Board lets parents know exactly how badly in need of repair their local school is, and if you add up all those repairs across the entire system the total comes to $3.4 billion, the board says.

Websites for each of the board's 588 schools now contain a link to a separate page that shows what repairs are needed — from simpler fixes like replacing a few ceiling tiles, to major problems like outdated heating or cooling systems.

"These are not safety issues," board chair Robin Pilkey emphasized in an interview with CBC Radio's Here and Now Monday. "We have a lot of really old buildings and a lot of the systems in those buildings should be replaced." TDSB schools have an average age of 60 years, and 50 schools are 95 years old or older, she said.

The TDSB arrives at the $3.4 billion figure by adding up what repairing every item on the backlog lists would cost. 

That's almost four times more than Toronto Community Housing's current repair backlog, which is $896-million, according to the TCH website, and about eight times more than the city's road repair backlog, which sits at about $430-million, excluding repairs to the Gardiner Expressway.

The TDSB has long complained that the province only provides enough money to cover emergency repairs, and to fix problems that could jeopardize student safety, while ignoring the board's requests for funds that would keep their buildings in a state of good repair.

Board "chipping away" at backlog

However, TDSB spokesman Ryan Bird acknowledged that this summer, the province has provided extra funding — about $250-million — that will allow the board to "start chipping away" at the backlog.

He said the goal is to have that kind of funding made more predictable. If not, he said the backlog could hit $4.7 billion by 2018.

The board decided to make the school repair backlogs public in the interests of transparency, Bird said, and to help individuals learn more about the condition of their neighbourhood school.

While some people understand the total backlog is in the billions, "that's a big number," Bird said.  "We're trying to show people what that means on a local school level."

Security problems not included in backlogs

Each of the repairs on the list is rated according to how soon it's needed, from urgent, to low.

Some problems, like defective alarm systems, are not listed because the board believes publicizing them could compromise security.

As well as the list of repairs, each school is assigned an overall rating, called a Facility Condition Index, which compares the cost of all the repairs needed at the school to the cost of tearing it down completely and building a new one.

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