March 24, 2021
The Honourable Stephen Lecce
Minister of Education
315 Front Street, 14th Floor
Toronto, ON M7A 0B8
Dear Minister Lecce,
On behalf of the Toronto District School Board, I am writing you to advocate for the Focus on Youth Summer Program and the Community Use of Schools Grant – Priority Schools Initiative.
As you know, the Focus on Youth Summer Program is designed to support at-risk youth by providing them with opportunities to gain valuable work experience and participate in safe-space activities that promote physical fitness and the development of life-long skills. The program has documented evidence of helping our most marginalized communities, and has helped respond to the high rates of youth violence, poverty and lack of opportunities for youth in our city.
Since 2016, the Focus on Youth Summer Program has allowed the TDSB to hire and train approximately 2,742 secondary school students to work alongside community agencies and this has benefited about 51,800 youth across the city. Whether the program is offered in-person, online or a mix of both this year, we hope that you will fund this opportunity at the same level as 2018.
As for the Community Use of Schools Grant – Priority Schools Initiative, we were very disappointed that this funding was cut last year, including funding to support Outreach Coordinators. This grant subsidizes school boards to offer free permitting for the use of schools, which allows for extra supports and programs to operate out of our schools for youth and families facing socio-economic challenges. For the Toronto District School Board, this subsidy provided free permits for the use of 77 of our schools on the priority list (low socio-economic).
We understand that the province is currently focused on containing and managing the current COVID-19 health crisis – and we acknowledge your efforts in this regard. However, we do not want your government to lose sight of the grants and programs that have historically helped some of our most vulnerable communities and at-risk youth. It’s important that we continue to work together to provide our youth with opportunities that align with our shared commitment to equity.
We ask that you fund both the Focus on Youth Summer Program and the Community Use of Schools Grant – Priority Schools Initiative for 2021 at 2018 funding levels to provide free permits and Community Use of Schools Coordinator positions to support some of our most vulnerable youth. We also urge you to announce this funding soon so that staff can properly prepare and our communities can be notified. Further, we hope that this funding will be an annual commitment and included in the Grants for Student Needs.
As always, I am more than happy to discuss this with you further.
Chair, Toronto District School Board