Toronto Board trying to save St. Joseph's Morrow Park

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  • April 24, 2009
TORONTO - When Grade 12 student Vanessa Tillner graduates this year, she could be one of the last students to do so at the original site of St. Joseph’s Morrow Park High School.

Next year, the school celebrates its 50th anniversary at its Bayview Avenue site in the northern reaches of the city. But the Toronto Catholic District School Board says if the school’s current lease isn’t renegotiated, there will be a new all-girls school for future graduates.

The lease expires in 2010 and negotiations to extend it have so far been unsuccessful.

The board is asking for $20 million from the Ontario government to buy the current school site and $25 million to build a new school.

Angelo Sangiorgio, the board’s associate director of planning and facilities, said there are several options if the ministry does not grant funding to purchase the property. A new school could be built at several elementary school sites, including the former St. Leonard Catholic School, Brebeuf College or St. Agnes School. It’s the top priority at the board right now, Sangiorgio said, because “we don’t have any other alternatives to accommodate the girls.”

The school was built on the site of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto’s Motherhouse. The Sisters originally arrived in Toronto in 1851. The school opened in 1960 with a staff of nine sisters, one lay teacher and 147 students.

The Sisters sold their 20-hectare, $40-million property three years ago to Tyndale University College and Seminary.

At that time, the lease to the school board was extended to 2010.

Although his 18-year-old daughter is graduating this year, Walter Tillner said he would like to see the school stay at its original location. But if it’s not possible, the chair of the Catholic School Advisory Committee at the school said he doesn’t object to a new school in a new location.

Ward 5 Trustee Maria Rizzo said the ideal scenario would be that the property be owned by the board and the school remain where it is.

“It would be a shame to throw all that history out,” she said.

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