Change studied for east end Toronto schools

  • June 22, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - Neil McNeil High School could be getting a new building, paid for by new condos or townhouses on the current school site, according to the Toronto Catholic District School Board.

Neil McNeil is part of a cluster of high schools undergoing a school accommodation review by the Toronto Catholic board. The cluster includes Notre Dame, Cardinal Newman, Jean Vanier and St. Patrick High Schools, all in east Toronto and south Scarborough.

Angelo Sangiorgio, the board’s associate director of planning and facilities, said the board has conducted feasibility studies on building a new school for Neil McNeil, as well as potential private partners to finance the school’s redevelopment. But Sangiorgio said this plan for a new school is just one possibility for Neil McNeil and is dependent upon the findings of the school accommodation review which involves all five schools.

In 2006, the Ontario government introduced a standard process for school accommodation reviews, including closing schools. This process lifted the 2003 moratorium on school closings. The government has provided accommodation review guidelines for all Ontario boards which establish a process for schools, parents and communities to be involved in the consultation process. 

The Neil McNeil building project has not been approved and no partners have come forward yet, said Sangiorgio.

The proposal follows the board’s recent purchase of the school site at Victoria Park Avenue and Kingston Road in Toronto’s Beaches area from the Spiritans, Sangiorgio said.

Sylvia Menezes, chair of Neil McNeil’s parent council, said another possibility for the school is for Neil McNeil to be consolidated with another school which has fewer students. But this is not the best option for the school, she said. Instead, Menezes endorses a new building on its current site, something still under consideration.

A Toronto Catholic District School Board memo dated April 29 from director of education Ann Perron to the supervisory team recommended acquiring a new site for Neil McNeil “subject to availability of funding.” According to the memo, Neil McNeil is projected to increase its enrolment from 648 in 2008 to 831 next year. It is also projected to have at least 880 students until 2011, while enrolment is projected to fall to 761 in 2014.

It also recommended a new site for Jean Vanier, to redevelop Cardinal Newman High School and neighbouring St. Theresa Shrine Elementary School into a combined site, subject to the availability of funding, and to redevelop Notre Dame and its neighbour St. John’s School on a combined site.

Menezes said parents are hoping to continue Neil McNeil’s traditions, including its connection to the Spiritan Fathers and 51-year history as an all-boys school, and build upon the school’s academic excellence. It won the Premier’s Award for Teaching Excellence as “Team of the Year” in April.

Menezes, who was scheduled to speak at a June 17 public board meeting, said with the board under provincial supervision, there is a lack of transparency.

“We input something (at these meetings) but what do they do with that input? We don’t know,” she said, adding that it’s important to have two-way communication during the school accommodation reviews.

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