TDSB sues over fire at York Memo

The TDSB is suing the city, the province, and the police over the fires that gutted York Memorial two years ago. The suit alleges that the Fire Department “did not post a fire watch at the building. The TFS assumed that the fire was out and that a fire watch was not required”. It also alleges that the police improperly delegated supervision to TDSB security.

These actions allegedly led to a second fire that completely destroyed the building after the first fire was not properly extinguished.

The suit also says that the Ontario Fire Marshall report was written to “downplay, mislead, conceal and suppress evidence of negligence and gross negligence”.  

York Memo Fire Statement – more questions than answers.

Seeing Through the School (file)

A confidential report on the York Memorial School fires of May 6th and 7th has been completed by the Ontario Fire Marshal based on investigations into the cause of the blaze that devastated the historic structure. The public will not see it for some time but a copy is now in the hands of Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg.

A spokesperson for  the OFM said yesterday that the fire was one event and was accidental in nature.

“This was a single-event fire originating within the wall cavities of the structure in the area of the school auditorium,”

Once the statement was released it was clear that was to be no further comment from any involved parties until more information is available. The Toronto District School Board is scrambling to make the former Scarlett Heights Academy available for the approximately 1000 students and staff on September 3rd and would not comment.

Readers may remember that Chief Pegg at the time called the May 7th blaze, ‘Separate and distinct’. While it’s now clear that there was one cause and that it was accidental (which is some good news at least), the statement has reporters and members of the public examining the chicken entrails in order to tease out more information. These troubling questions remain unanswered:

  • If this was a single fire that managed to smoulder overnight and re-emerge the following afternoon, who was responsible?
  • Was the Toronto Fire Department at fault in not killing the fire on May 6th?
  • Should there have been TDSB or TFD personnel on fire watch overnight at the school?
  • Why did Chief Pegg say there were two separate and distinct fires?
  • Can the school be saved or will it have to be demolished?
  • What about other old schools in Toronto – are students at risk?

No doubt there is much to be learned from the fire. Let’s hope the report and its recommendations can be released soon so that these and other questions can be answered.

Scarlett Heights Academy to close.

From Wikipedia.

Last June, the Toronto District School Board voted to close the Scarlett Heights Entrepreneurial Academy. The school sits just across the Humber, on Trehorne, near the Royal York Plaza and will usher out its last student next June. With only 221 students and room for 843, the school was only 26% utilized and had become an expensive hobby for TDSB. Even elementary schools would struggle to cope with such a tiny population and high schools are unable to provide a decent variety of courses with an average of only 55 students per grade. Students south of Eglinton will move to Richview C.I. while those to the north will will transfer to Kipling C.I.

The school’s closure might be a tad premature because Plant World on Eglinton sold for squillions to Lanterra Developments and a large influx of new students might have materialized once the 1900 proposed homes are built on the property. (Five, 18-33-storey towers are proposed for the site – subject to an OMB appeal by the City).

No matter, the kids will be moving and as a result of the Scarlett Heights influx, Kipling C.I. is exploring changing its name to reflect the two school communities.

Richview Collegiate, former high school of Beatles impersonator, Stephen Harper…not so much.

Suggestions for Kipling C.I.’s new name can be submitted using this link.

Weston schools will not be closed

The TDSB released a list of under-enrolled schools this week under pressure from Liz Sandals, the provincial Minister of Education. Politicians will now be forced to consider closing some of them. The good news: Weston schools are not threatened. The bad news: several in Mount Dennis are, as are schools that host recreation programs attended by Weston families.

About 1 in 5 Toronto elementary schools has low enrolment, and about 1 in 3 high schools, does, according to the Globe. Not all of these schools will be closed, of course; the TDSB will consider—and try to punt on—each one.

All five Weston schools (Pelmo, Memo, CR, CI, and HJ) have high-enough enrolment to miss the cut. Other area schools, though, are in danger.

  • Dennis Ave: 59%
  • Amesbury MS: 56%
  • York Humber SS: 56%
  • Maple Leaf PS: 64% enrolment
  • Nelson Boylen: 13% enrolment
  • The Elms: 49%

Boylen, Amesbury, and the Elms all host community recreation programs such as swimming.

Weston public schools may have another kind of problem: over-enrolment. HJ Alexander is currently at 121% of its capacity. Pelmo is at 109%.