Schools to become connected community centres on evenings and weekends
April 17, 2023 – Josh Matlow announced today that as Mayor he will open neighbourhood schools so that they will operate as community centres on evenings and weekends. The community hubs will connect local residents and provide recreation programs and continuing education courses for Toronto residents of all ages. The $1-million Open Schools Toronto plan is funded through Matlow’s $115-million Community Health and Safety Fund announced two weeks ago.
“The pandemic underlined how social connection is key to our health and wellbeing. Every neighbourhood in Toronto has local schools with classrooms, a library and a gym that can be transformed into local hubs for social gatherings, sports, art courses, seniors’ programming and newcomer classes,” said Matlow.
Good health and wellness depend on spaces and places to socialize and be physically active. Unfortunately, three in 10 Torontonians don’t feel a strong sense of belonging to their local community. And too many Toronto families lack access to local opportunities for social connection and recreation. (1)
“In addition to connecting neighbours and strengthening the social fabric, opening schools on evenings and weekends is a cost-effective way to increase access to recreational activities. With rising construction costs, we can’t afford to let existing infrastructure sit under-utilized.”
Community Use Agreements already exist between the City and local school boards that allow for public use of fields and other outdoor spaces during non-school hours, but very few arrangements have been made for the use of indoor facilities like school gyms and classrooms. As Mayor, Josh will provide adequate funding and work with all local school boards to deliver more community space where Torontonians can be active, learn new things and connect with each other.
Matlow will prioritize opening up 25 schools in underserviced neighbourhoods in his first budget, with the goal of expanding Open Schools to all neighbourhoods with an identified need in three years. Open Schools Toronto is projected to cost $1,064,733 based on the Toronto District School Board’s A2 category permit fee (Community Use of Schools; Definition of Community Permit Categories) for four classrooms, a library or music rooms and a double gym opened from 6-10pm on weekdays, 8am to 6pm on Saturdays and 8am to 3pm on Sundays and holidays. This is a conservative cost estimate given many of the programs for youth, seniors and other underserved groups will qualify for the much lower A1 category permit fee.
To learn more about Josh Matlow’s mayoral campaign to make Toronto a city that works, the safe, affordable, livable city that we all know it can be, please visit VoteMatlow.ca.