NEWS June 4th, 2017

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John Fisher parents fight development with rally, lawyers

Community retains lawyer to represent them before school board

BRIAN BAKER/STREETER RALLY CRY: Students at John Fisher Public School chant "Safety first" during a second protest outside the school, May 24.

Parents of John Fisher Public School are not resting until the Toronto District School Board and the KG Group do the right thing, in their eyes.

More than 100 students, parents and residents gathered outside the school for another rally May 24 to protest the passing of the proposed agreement with KG Group, who is developing 18-30 Erskine Avenue into a 35-storey rental apartment building.

Parents are concerned the school board is rushing into a decision without weighing the risk assessment options.

Among the crowd was parent advocate Stavros Rougas, who has been the spokesperson of the Parents for John Fisher Public School. He pointed the finger at the board for their impatience and lack of clarity on the issue.

Because of that litigator Shantona Chaudhury has been retained to present the group’s concerns. And did so on May 18 at the school board’s offices.

“The TDSB did a risk assessment that says without third-party enforcement it’s not safe to operate the school,” he said. “Now they’re signing an agreement with the developer that doesn’t have third party enforcement, and they’re trying to make certain claims that are not explained.

The parents say they want facts, and they want to get the decision right.

Rougas said they don’t understand why the process must be expedited. All explanations, he added, have been wishy-washy at best.

“What’s the community’s redeeming value of this tower?” Rougas asked. “What’s the hurry when something has no benefit when you have a public school that’s struggling to run safely and stay open.”

Taylor Roberts, another parent at the school, echoed those sentiments and underscored the two key messages from the May 24 rally.

“We need (the provincial government) to help us step in with this OMB review,” he said. “The government has acknowledged that the OMB is a flawed process.”

Second was a message to the TDSB that their main responsibility is to protect the children.

“Follow the original risk assessment to make sure the kids are safe,” Roberts said. “Do not vote on something that has been diluted.”

Councillors Jaye Robinson and Josh Matlow attended the rally and spoke to the crowd. Robinson shared that Chief City Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat, said the project is a travesty.

“The planner also said to me this should have never happened,” she added.

The TDSB voted to approve the risk assessment and the development May 24. The next decision could be whether students will be moved to another school during construction.