Jo-Ann Davis, trustee for the Toronto Catholic Board and Toronto Mayor John Tory are at the centre of the groundbreaking ceremony for the project at Canoe Landing that will see Catholic and public students share the same space. Photo by Meggie Hoefler

Catholic and public elementary schools will share space on Toronto waterfront

By 
  • September 26, 2017

The schoolchildren of Toronto’s condoland, be they in the public or Catholic stream, will soon be sharing an elementary school.

On Sept. 13, the sod was turned for Bishop Macdonell Catholic Elementary School. The new school is located next to Canoe Landing Park at Fort York Blvd. between Spadina and Bathurst. It will share the space with two other facilities: Jean Lumb Public Elementary School and the Canoe Landing Community Recreation Centre. The multi-storey facility is anticipated to open its doors on Sept. 1 2019.

“I am very proud of this partnership between the City, the Toronto District School Board and the Toronto Catholic District School Board,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory. “This is a wonderful example of how we are building healthy communities by working together. This co-operation is exactly how we build and stronger and fairer city.”

They will be under the same roof, but Bishop Macdonell and Jean Lumb will be two separate schools. Children will walk down the same hallways but attend different classes, follow different rules and adhere to different dress codes.

“The students from the Catholic board will still follow the blue and white dress code for elementary schools,” said Jo-Ann Davis, trustee for the Toronto Catholic Board.

This is not the first time public and Catholic schools have shared a space. Humberwood Downs Public School and Holy Child Catholic School have shared the same facility in Etobicoke since the schools opened in 1995.

The school’s namesake is Bishop Alexander Macdonell, who established various schools and churches across Upper Canada during the early 19th century. He founded Regopolis College in Kingston in 1846, which offered academic and theological training to Roman Catholic youth.

The Catholic school will have 56,000 square feet of space and will be able to accommodate 550 students. Jean Lumb Public School will have 58,000 square feet of space.

Maia Puccetti, the superintendent of facilities for the Toronto Catholic Board,says Bishop Macdonell’s facilities will be “state of the art.”

“The classrooms are designed to bring in lots of natural light,” said Puccetti. “They will also be equipped with access to technology and the walls are collapsable to create more space if needed. Our library will have shared work rooms for students to work on group projects together. Our gym also has collapsable walls to make the space larger if needed.”

Puccetti says the Board was able to implement these features with support from the Community Centre and a development levy fund. The fund was part of an Umbrella Agreement with Canadian National Railways in 1994, which anticipated a demand for schools in an area where population growth was expected to skyrocket.

Having two schools share one space is also an efficient way to spend the taxpayer’s dime. “We are making use of our limited public dollars while still keeping the unique spirit of each school alive and well,” said Davis.

Despite being one of Toronto’s most affluent neighbourhoods (the average price of a home in the Harbourfront condo community is upwards of $600,000) the children in the area are underserved when it comes to schooling.

“Currently elementary students in the area are attending schools as far away as the Esplanade,” said Davis. “The only negative comment we have received is community members asking us if we can make it happen faster.”

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