A group of TDSB school trustee candidates vying for election on Oct. 27 met on the site of the former Briar Hill Junior Public School on Wednesday afternoon to draw attention to their pledge that, if elected, they will formally oppose the sale of schools and greenspace.
Initiative leaders Jennifer Arp, who is looking to succeed Howard Goodman in Ward 8, and Robert Cerjanec, a Ward 17 candidate, were flanked by four of the nine other participating trustee candidates. The Dufferin Street and Briar Hill Avenue school was demolished in January to make way for townhouses.
The co-organizers said their opposition to the sale of school properties comes after Premier Kathleen Wynne’s direction to the education minister to make underutilized schools community hubs. They argue that mandate should extend to greenspaces, and not only the buildings.
“Whether it’s green or whether it’s brick, it deserves to be preserved and protected,” Arp said.
Arp has publicly opposed the TDSB proposal to sever the land at Bannockburn School, off of Avenue Road. She says the current pledge is directly associated with that parcel of land.
“Bannockburn already is a community hub,” she said. “It already has 1,200 kids playing sports there.”
Fenced-off space like is seen at Briar Hill is what Bannockburn could become if the proposed severance is greenlighted by the OMB at a hearing slated for Nov. 13–14, she warns.
The city’s committee of adjustment refused the severance in May, saying the school board did not follow its own guidelines on the matter. The TDSB announced in June it would take the matter to the OMB.
Cerjanec argues people don’t pay attention to who owns greenspaces, and with “massive developments” coming all over the city residents are “going to need that greenspace.”
“You don’t walk in and wonder if it is owned by the school board or owned by the city — you see grass, you see playing fields, you go out there and you utilize it,” Cerjanec said. “These are public assets that have been developed when these neighbourhoods were built.”
Other midtown trustee candidates supporting the initiative are Chris Moise, Ward 14, and Marit Stiles, Ward 9.