Student athletes trek up to 8 km while board, city haggle over field's future

1 / 4
Student athletes trek up to 8 km while board, city haggle over field's future

Students at a Catholic high school near Weston Road and Black Creek Drive say they're tired of going to school next to a public sports field they're not allowed to play on.

And they've put together a 775-signature petition they hope will get some movement from the school board and the city.

Blessed Archbishop Romero Catholic Secondary School students had used the adjacent field for years, to practise sports like flag football, baseball, soccer and track, even though it was built on top of a landfill site that vents explosive gases and is pitted with hidden holes and sudden dips.

A few years ago, the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) decided it was too unsafe to continue using.

"Out of an abundance of caution, it was determined that it would be best for students to use other facilities and to look at a long-range plan," TCDSB spokesperson John Yan told CBC Toronto on Monday. "And we do have a long-range plan currently."

But that plan has to be hammered out in conjunction with city hall, because although it abuts the school, the field is actually owned by the city

And so far, the  board and the city have not reached an agreement about who's responsible for what remediation tasks.

Meanwhile, student athletes say they have to trek more than eight kilometres to use facilities at other schools and public parks.

"It's absurd," Grade 12 student Anna Fisico told CBC Toronto on Monday. "Having these sports and then not having a field, and having to commute to other schools in faraway places just to play."

"That's a lot of transit money we have to pay, said another Grade 12 student, Cristian Recinos. "We just want the field."

Yan said the board approved a $1-million investment in the field at its meeting last month. 

"I just found that out today," Coun. Frances Nunziata, whose ward includes the school, told CBC Toronto Monday. "That's great. I'm glad that the school board is stepping up."

Years to clean up

But as far as a permanent solution goes, she said "years ago it was millions of dollars. I don't know what it would be today.

"To clean it up properly would probably take years."

She said the city is in the process of hiring a consultant to determine exactly what work will have to be done to make the field safe enough that the Romero students can use it as their home field.

Million-dollar investiment

As for the million-dollar investment, Yan said part of that money will be used this spring and summer to get the field in good enough shape that there could be some use by students beginning next school year. 

Nunziata said she has not yet received the students' petition.

As of Monday, the board and the city had yet to reach agreement on who would pay for what, or a timeline for completion of the field.