The Honourable Stephen Lecce
Education Minister of Ontario
Dear Minister Lecce,
On behalf of the Toronto District School Board, I want to thank you for the opportunity to share our feedback on the proposed amendments to Ontario Regulation 444/98, regarding Disposition of Surplus Real Property, as well as the introduction of a new regulation regarding schools on shared sites.
Upon thorough examination of the draft revisions, both the Toronto District School Board and our subsidiary, the Toronto Lands Corporation, have reviewed and assessed the proposed changes. I urge you to consider the prepared and attached comprehensive comments for your consideration.
As always, I would be happy to schedule a call or meeting to discuss the regulation changes further with you.
Rachel Chernos Lin
Chair, Toronto District School Board
The Honourable Kinga Surma, Minister of Infrastructure
The Honourable Paul Calandra, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
New Regulation: Schools on a Shared Site
It is our understanding that a new regulation under the Education Act will be created to prescribe:
- Circumstances under which a school board shall give notice to the Minister or require approval from the Minister for the acquisition of land or premises for a school to be shared with other entities;
- The specific types of notices and approvals needed to proceed with the acquisition;
- Timelines associated with providing notices and obtaining approvals; and
- Criteria for obtaining approvals.
This proposed regulation would not apply to school sites that will be shared exclusively with another school board, municipality, or child care center.
TDSB Comments on the Proposed New Regulation
Scope of the Regulation
This new regulation would apply to circumstances “Where a board plans to acquire a school site for pupil accommodation and the site will not be occupied or used exclusively by the board, or exclusively with another board, municipality, child care centre or other prescribed entity” (Section 195 (1.5)). We recommend that other prescribed entities include other public entities and non-profit entities.
We recommend that the new regulation not apply to projects that are already funded by the Ministry such as the new elementary school in the Lower Yonge Precinct that is being planned to be built in the podium of a condominium tower.
Approvals by the Ministry
We are supportive of clear direction of the type of notices and approvals required and recommend that notice be in a format that directly ties to the approval criteria to ensure efficient reporting by school boards and review by the Ministry.
We support the removal of the original Section 196 of the Education Act that required the Minister to provide approval for a school board to begin negotiations of a Memorandum of Understanding with a person or entity other than a school board or municipality, such as a developer, for the provision of student accommodation on a shared site. This initial approval slows down the process of securing an opportunity to build a school on a shared site. The opportunity could be lost if school boards are not able to respond in a timeframe that meets the developer’s own timeline.
We do not recommend that the Memorandum of Understanding be submitted to the Minister for approval since it serves to secure an opportunity to build a school on a shared site and is not a commitment of funds.
We support that the Minister should provide approval of the proposed agreement of purchase and sale after negotiations with the developer have occurred. We recommend that the Minister provide approval within 60 days of receiving the proposed agreement of purchase and sale to ensure approval is provided in a timely manner.
We recommend that school boards be allowed to apply for funding to the Ministry to build a school on a shared site outside of the Capital Priorities Program timelines. School boards should be able to apply to the Ministry for funding for this purpose at any time of the year. The Capital Priorities Program occurs on an irregular basis and provides a small window of time for school boards to submit business cases. When working with a developer, it is important that a school board can respond to the developer in a time period that works with the developer’s own plan. If the school board cannot get approvals or funds within a timeframe that works for the developer, the school board could lose the opportunity to build a school at that location. We recommend that the Ministry respond to a request for funding to build a school on a shared site within 60 days. We recommend that a separate funding process be created for schools on shared sites with flexible timelines similar to the Land Priorities Grant Program.
We recommend that the eligibility requirement for school boards to collect Education Development Charges (EDCs) from developers be changed. Currently, a school board must have a system-wide enrolment that exceeds its system-wide capacity to enact an Education Development Charge Bylaw. The TDSB has surplus capacity at the system level but overcrowding at the regional level coming from residential development intensification. Because of this eligibility requirement, the TDSB is not able to collect EDCs to address the pockets of overcrowding where a school on a shared site may be the necessary solution to achieve a school close to where the students live. The eligibility requirement could be changed from a system-wide measure of enrolment and capacity to a regional or neighbourhood measure.
At a minimum, the eligibility requirement should be eliminated for a school board to enter into a Localized Education Development Agreement (LEDA) which would allow school boards like the TDSB to potentially acquire a school on a shared site funded by the developer. A successful example from the past that would be beneficial to replicate was the agreement for the redevelopment of the Railway Lands in downtown Toronto (now called CityPlace) where the developers of the area paid a per-unit levy that funded the construction of a mixed-use facility consisting of a TDSB school (Jean Lumb Public School), a TCDSB school (Bishop Macdonell Catholic School), a child care centre, and a community centre – at no cost to the Ministry of Education.
We also recommend that the permitted uses of EDCs be expanded from land related costs to include construction costs for new buildings and other costs to meet growth-related infrastructure needs such as additions and renovations to existing schools.
These recommended changes to EDCs should benefit all schools, not just schools on a shared site.
Support for School Boards in Working with Developers and Municipalities
We recommend that measures be put in place to support school boards in acquiring a school on a shared site:
- Incentives should be provided for developers to accommodate a school on a shared site when the need is identified by school board staff; and
- Municipalities should be required to share green space next to a shared site for use as the school’s playfield, drop-off area, and marshalling area (the terms for sharing the green space should take into consideration exclusive use for the school during certain hours to ensure student safety).
To have real effect, we recommend that these measures be incorporated into legislation where appropriate, such as the Planning Act, to give school boards authority and leverage in working with municipalities and developers to ensure that local student accommodation needs are met.
We offer the following unique considerations for schools on shared sites for the awareness of the Ministry, incorporation into the appropriate guiding documents, and for accommodation in the approvals process. This is not a comprehensive list and will change over time as more schools on shared sites are constructed.
- It is essential that a school located within a mixed-use development has a positive and defining impact on the plan and character of the community instead of just 'fitting a school into a condo'.
- School boards should be brought in early in the developer’s design process to have an opportunity to create a Memorandum of Understanding prior to Ministry approval that includes consideration for:
- gym location;
- column spacing;
- size and location of rooftop play;
- mechanical systems;
- appropriate windowsill heights and sizes, operable window vents and shading devices where required; and
- access to natural light and views from all instructional spaces.
- Early consultation with the developer and the municipality is essential to allow for the exploration of planned local amenities for shared-use opportunities, e.g., community and recreation centres, child care facilities, city park developments.
- Ministry benchmarks for funding the construction of schools on shared sites need to be increased to reflect actual construction costs and cost premiums. Cost premiums associated with a school co-located within a mixed-use development include:
- Premiums for finishes at areas that become part of the overall architectural expression of the building;
- Consideration for improved quality of interior space related to a dense urban environment, e.g., improved ventilation to ensure a high level of indoor air quality at dense urban locations where operable windows may not be appropriate for both air quality and/or acoustic reasons; and
- School Identity – premiums for signage and street/community presence, which must be approved by the developer and integrated into the overall building design.
- This type of school development will have no room for portables or building future additions, so consideration must be made for purchasing additional space which may be leased out until the school needs the space due to enrolment changes. This type of school should be built to a utilization rate less than 100% for the projected peak enrolment – we recommend 80%. This additional space will function as flex space to accommodate fluctuations in enrolment.
- Exterior marshalling area for access to the main school entrance must accommodate a minimum of three classrooms (up to 90 students) at one time. If the playground is across a road a similar sized marshalling area is required on the playground side.
- Exclusive main school entrance must be located at ground level. If the remainder of the school is at different floor levels, the entrance lobby must be large enough (approximately 250 square meters) to accommodate a minimum of two classrooms at one time (up to 60 students) and include lockable storage space, washrooms, location for a staff member to welcome and supervise students and visitors, and large video monitor and security camera for connection to general office.
- Two oversized elevators (30-person capacity) are required to facilitate student movement during arrival, dismissal, lunch and recess. A second exclusive school entrance, with the second elevator, may be required to improve traffic flow. Location will be determined by specific site configuration.
- Two exclusive exit stairs in addition to the required exit stairs are preferred. If the school is located on more than one floor, two exclusive exits/internal circulation stairs are recommended.
- Exit stairs must be designed for the comfort and safety of small children, e.g., wider treads, shorter risers, and child-height handrails in addition to the handrails required by code.
- Exit stairs that are shared with other building occupants require additional security measures, e.g., alarms, cameras or vestibules separating the school space from the public space.
Instructional Areas and Student Amenity Spaces
- The Ministry’s area benchmark should be revised to accommodate the unique needs of schools in shared sites. To compensate for smaller outdoor play areas and potential challenges with access to playgrounds and outdoor learning environments, the provision of additional indoor amenities and gross motor skills space at each school level is recommended. These spaces may include multi-purpose rooms, collaboration spaces, a kitchen to accommodate nutrition programs, or lunchroom, depending on the specific need. Approximately 0.5 – 0.75 square meter per pupil place is recommended.
- Classrooms and other instructional spaces may require some flexibility in size and configuration to fit specific site or building configurations while creating exemplary learning environments.
- Space should be planned with acoustic separation to manage sound transmission between classrooms, specific program spaces, and other users in the building. If possible, avoid direct adjacency of school spaces to residential units.
Safety and Security
- Additional safety and security measures are required:
- Additional security cameras;
- Fire safety plan (amendment to main building); and
- Special schol board fire drill and evacuation considerations, e.g., wider stairwells).
- Kindergarten and primary students must have direct access to fenced/enclosed outdoor play. This will often be in rooftop space on the podium.
- Direct access to outdoor play for all other grade levels is preferred, e.g., on the same site, not crossing a public road.
- If outdoor play must be located with access crossing a public road, provision of safe road crossing facilities is required. Additional staff are required for supervision. A storage shed and convenient washroom facilities for exclusive use of the school are strongly recommended. Shade must be provided by planting mature trees or provision of a shade structure.
- Fencing or a landscaped enclosure must be provided at shared playgrounds, such as city parks. Fencing is particularly important to separate dog runs from areas in which children play.
- Rooftop play requires upgraded structure and roof depth to accommodate the live occupant load and play surfaces. Higher guard rails, than what is required by the Ontario Building Code, are also required. Shade structures may also be required where trees cannot be accommodated. Access to water and power is required. Consideration should be given for snow clearing for all-year access, e.g., covered play area, heat tracing, etc.
- The total area of recommended exclusive outdoor play is 8 to 10 square meters per pupil place. Kindergarten and primary students must have a secured outdoor play area with direct access to the school. For grades 4-8 direct access to the school is preferred.
- Specific provisions including additional security and circulation space may be required for community access to the school (gymnasium, library, etc.) or outdoor play and amenity spaces.
- There are premium costs for underground parking and bike parking, as required by code and site-specific needs. Consideration for bus and parent drop-off requires early consultation with the developer or building owner. Premium costs may be incurred to accommodate drop-off on a dense urban site, e.g., access to underground parking and service areas.
- Requirement for handling of waste, deliveries, etc. in a different way will have space and staffing implications, e.g., service elevator with garbage holding area and storage area at below grade levels.
Schools on shared sites are new experiences for school boards and more will be learned as these schools are built which could change construction parameters. We recommend that guidelines be developed with school board staff. Flexibility should be embedded in the guidelines since high-density neighbourhoods are unique in their design; schools incorporated into these neighbourhoods will require unique design as well.