Ontario announces historic school construction reforms

Ontario plans to spend around $15 billion over 10 years on new schools.

A rendering shows the design of the George Syme Community School Addition project in York. – Toronto District School Board

Key Takeaways: 

  • The province’s capital process for school construction hasn’t been significantly updated since 2010. 
  • Ontario says the changes will cut the average school construction timeline of 4-7 years in half. 
  • The reforms include prioritizing shovel-ready projects, project agreements that lay out key milestones and delivery timelines, standardized designs, streamlined approvals and more. 
  • The measures have been incorporated into this year’s Capital Priorities Program as well as through new regulation that takes effect December 31, 2023. 

The Whole Story:

The Ontario government is introducing new measures to speed up school construction.

Officials say the changes will cut construction timelines by nearly 50% to meet the unprecedented pace of growth across the province. 

In Ontario, the average school construction timeline is 4-7 years. The province stated that this is due to an “obsolete capital” process that has not been meaningfully overhauled since 2010.

Officials said the new process will be faster, more transparent, have accountability and prioritize shovel-ready projects. 

School boards will follow a more streamlined process to identify and dispose of unused property, generate more revenue to reinvest back in schools, create schools in mixed-use buildings like condominiums and use existing buildings in their communities.

“As our government delivers on our promise to Build Ontario, ease the housing crisis and meet the expanding population need, it is vital that students have access to modern schools close to home,” said Stephen Lecce, minister of education. “It is no longer acceptable for schools to take a decade to be built, and that is why we are reforming the way schools are built by working with school boards to speed up the construction through design standardization, reduced approval requirements and increased transparency and accountability to ensure value for taxpayer dollars.”

The strategy overhauls the development, planning and building of schools so projects can be completed faster for the benefit of families in growing communities. Key reforms include:

  • Prioritizing shovel-ready projects and enhanced accountability requirements as school boards provide realistic project costs and timelines.
  • Strengthened accountability framework to reduce approval timelines and stronger project oversight with the introduction of project agreements that lay out key milestones and delivery timelines.
  • Standardizing designs of new schools to reduce school board planning time and mitigate scheduling delays.
  • Greater collaboration between school boards and municipalities to ensure planning and construction of schools is targeted to ongoing and future growth.
  • Reducing red tape with streamlined approval and reporting requirements on new school builds.
  • Effectively using space by supporting school boards in working together to operate schools in joint-use facilities between two or more boards within the same building, where appropriate, or as shared-use sites where a school is part of a larger building with multiple users, such as a school within a mixed-use condominium.
  • Identifying and disposing of unused surplus school board property at fair market value, first considering local school board pupil accommodation needs and then provincial priorities such as long-term care and affordable housing before being sold by school boards on the open market. School boards will continue to reinvest proceeds of disposition back into their school facilities.

The measures have been incorporated into this year’s Capital Priorities Program as well as through new regulation that takes effect December 31, 2023. 


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