On 10 April 2017, over a half dozen construction workers began construction on the portion of the roof located directly above MGCI’s office. Nearby staircases were blocked off, and the entire main entrance on Don Mills Road was fenced. A message was posted for passing cars to see: “Caution.” The long-awaited roofing of Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute had begun.

The section of the roof above the galleria is currently being renovated. The roofing is expected to continue into the summer. Photo: Sophia Liu

The Garneau roof was last overhauled in 1998, when the entire section of the school near the soccer field was renovated and attached on. Certain areas of the roof, particularly near the office and cafeteria, were left untouched however, and have not been upgraded since the school was first built forty-five years ago, in 1972. The construction of the new roof is part of a “phase program” implemented in the TDSB. Every year, school roofs are evaluated based on several criteria, including the age of the roof, the condition of the roof, the major problems the roof has experienced, the life expectancy of the school, and the last time the roof was renovated. If the roof meets a specific standard for a number of the criteria, it is scheduled for a renovation. In general, this “phase program” ensures every school roof will be renovated every twenty years or so.

However, the renovation of the roof at Marc Garneau has been heavily delayed. A school roof is expected to last around twenty-five years, but MGCI’s roof has been up for almost half a century. It has experienced no shortage of issues either, including but not exclusive to water leakage during storms and a recent fire. While schools scheduled to close within the next couple of years will not have new roofs engineered, Marc Garneau CI, which operates with 131% capacity and hosts around eighteen hundred students as well as a number of specialized programs, is under no pressure to shut down.

The reason for the delay partially lies within the funding. The provincial government funds the Toronto District School Boards’ decision to renovate the roofing of schools. However, the provincial government’s repeated reports of deficits have slowed down the process. In the last thirteen years, the provincial government has run deficits for ten of those years, with an average reported deficit of $9.7 billion. In addition, the provincial government’s debt has also been steadily increasing and is expected to reach $318 billion this year. The economic difficulties the provincial government has been facing generates a lack of support and funding to TDSB-related activities, and has contributed to the delayed roofing of the school.

The roofing project, while deemed important and beneficial over the long run by the general population of the school, has caused certain inconveniences. The roads connecting Don Mills Road to a major school entrance has been completely fenced off, a  staircase near the office has been blocked, and students must take the secondary entrance to enter the office. Furthermore, during the first couple days of renovation, students noticed a distinctive and irritating scent of wood near the office. As of now, the odor has subsided. Kayne Alleyne-Adams, a Grade 11 student at MGCI, said, regarding the roofing, “I think that work like this should wait till the summer. The fact the many staircases are closed and doors are no longer accessible is very irritating.”

Just this 18 April 2017, a section of the roof being renovated caught on fire. The fire occurred in the evening and resulted in no casualties. It did, however, require a full day of clean up afterward and resulted in the cancellation of school on 19 April. The exact cause of this fire has not yet been released.

The roofing project typically takes twelve weeks. However, due to weather-related effects and the fire on the roof a few days ago, the roofing is not expected to be completed on time. School lead caretaker Luke said, “I don’t see the project finishing in twelve weeks. We’re not even done the gym roof yet. I would think it will run into the summer.”