The sky is the limit?
Vertical schools in residential condos could help solve Midtown overcrowding issues
Although the Toronto District School Board is threatening to close some schools around the city, there is no such threat in the Yonge and Eglinton area. New developments even come with the caveat that spots in schools are not assured.
The most recent idea is to build schools within new residential condo developments.
Reportedly, the Toronto District School Board hopes to have the first one in place by 2024. While this concept is new to the TDSB, it has been used to some success around the world. In addition, the Midtown area already has a school connected to a condo in North Toronto Collegiate Institute.
Although learning can take place in all sorts of settings, there are some logistical considerations the TDSB will need to grapple with if it is serious about partnering with a developer to build a vertical school.
One of the biggest challenges is timing the construction of the development and partnering with the school board at the beginning of the development process so that the building can be designed to meet school requirements.
Another issue will be how to accommodate extracurricular activities. It is one thing to build classrooms, but quite another to build gymnasiums and sport fields. Independent private schools that rent space have solved this challenge by partnering with organizations such as the YMCA, so their gym space and extracurricular requirements are offered by a separate facility.
Other challenges for the TDSB would be budgeting for a space that is leased. Funding to schools is based on a model that assumes the TDSB owns the land and receives capital and operating funding on a per capita basis. Leasing the space would mean the government would have to guarantee funding to a condominium corporation.
Unlike smaller storefronts, if the space is custom built for a school, it is harder to retrofit, and the condo would want some certainty of payment. On the flip side, if the school were a success, but the condo owners decided that they did not like sharing their home with school-aged children, the TDSB would need to be protected against a motion from cranky condo board members.
Vertical schools pose an interesting solution. If a school were to be located in a condo, kids could take the elevator down to class and then back upstairs for lunch. For kids and families who didn’t live in the building, there would likely be opportunities to walk or bike to school since there wouldn’t be a parking lot for drop off.
The increasingly cash-strapped school board would also have a new school built without significant capital outlays.
North Toronto Collegiate was rebuilt as part of a residential condo