The Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) is currently considering its 2016-2017 budget that it needs to submit to the provincial government by the end of June. Within the draft budget, TCDSB is looking for opportunities to implement approximately $20M CAD worth of cuts. One of the cuts being proposed by the TCDSB staff is to cancel bussing services for the three Eastern Rite Catholic schools, namely St. Demetrius, St. Josaphat and Josyf Cardinal Slipyj schools. The budget is currently being reviewed by the TCDSB’s twelve trustees.
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress Toronto branch’s Education Committee is engaged in a dialogue with the TCDSB trustees to communicate our community’s concern about the proposed transportation cuts. The UCC is working with the CSPCs (Catholic School Parents’ Councils) from all three Eastern Rite schools and will be sending a delegation from all three schools and the broader community to present their concerns at several upcoming TCDSB board meetings, planned for June 2, June 6 and June 9, all starting at 7 pm, at the TCDSB offices.
The UCC Toronto is urging concerned parents to contact the CSPC chair at their school and attend the board meetings to show their support for the delegation presenting and for the schools overall. As the head of the UCC Toronto Education Committee Orest Sklierenko put it, “If you don’t show up for the TCDSB meetings, buses may not show up for your kids in September.” The meetings will take place in the second floor board room, which is visible from the elevators/stair area in the foyer at 80 Sheppard Ave East, Toronto, Ontario, M2N 6E8. That board room fits a couple of hundred people and a sizeable delegation from the Eastern Rite schools would provide valuable support for the cause.
During the information session on May 29, Orest Sklierenko outlined several issues that would be worth raising when the community members speak before the TCDSB board meetings (this topic will be allowed to have four speakers). One of the points, which the parents of the students of St. Demetrius, St. Josaphat and Josyf Cardinal Slipyj schools have, is that the TCDSB promised them only a year ago to continue providing transportation for students until their graduation regardless of the recently implemented change of transportation boundaries, and to provide the service to their younger siblings. “Families have joined parishes because their kids are going to a particular school. And now, less than one year into the implementation of the new boundaries, the TCDSB is forcing them to move their children to a different school in order to continue receiving transportation. Has anyone considered the impact on children being shuffled from one school to another? Our parents may ask, ‘why should we trust the TCDSB ever again?'” said Mr. Sklierenko.
Up to 90% of the students of the Eastern Rite schools (greater than the average for the TCDSB) need transportation because there are only three such schools in Toronto. All of these children qualify for transporation according to the Board’s own transportation policies. Losing transportation may well bring the schools to the brink of closure because many parents would not be able to bring their kids to school independently. Neither the parents, nor the TCDSB would want to have that kind of outcome. Eastern Rite Catholic schools have had an over 50-year history of productive cooperation with the TCDSB, the schools are fully enrolled and consistently rank very highly by student achievement. To end all that as a result of two small reductions in the budget would be a grave mistake.
Because many students of the Eastern Rite schools are scattered across Etobicoke, there is a high risk of student loss from the TCDSB to the Public School Board as a result of the bussing cancellation. This raises the issue of potential loss of subsidies for the TCDSB. For each student the TCDSB receives more than $10,000 CAD in subsidies from the Ministry of Education. Losing 1,100 students currently enrolled in the Easter Rite schools, the TCDSB could lose up to $11M CAD, while the cancellation of transportation would bring only $400,000 CAD in savings. Even if a quarter of the current Eastern Rite school students left the TCDSB, the amount of subsidies lost would greatly outweigh the savings.
All these and other issues will be brought to the TCDSB Board by parent and community representatives. The Education Committee will hold an update meeting for the community on Sunday, June 5, 2016, at 7pm at the UNF hall (145 Evans Ave.) on the progress of the TCDSB board meetings.