Weston Community Invited to School Walk-in June 6th

On June 6th, around 8:30am, community members are invited to schools in the area for a community Walk-In to protest the cuts to education put forth by the Ford Government.

This walk-in is taking place at schools across the city, including those in Weston, who will be among the most severely impacted by Ford’s cuts to education. There are over 250 schools registered already, with several in our area, including Weston C.I., Pelmo Park, Weston Memorial JPS, and C. R. Marchant Middle School. Their information on their website states that they are “ calling for a reinvestment in our schools, children, and communities” through community building.

Already, petitions have been made to protest these cuts, the main one for music courses being cut at Weston C.I. but this is the first big step towards a change. One Weston resident commented on the cuts by saying “I like the idea of e-learning courses being incorporated into the curriculum, but not until grade eleven and twelve. They help teach independence and resourcefulness, which are essential in post-secondary education but this cannot come at the cost of jobs and quality of learning,” while another resident commented “this does not consider students with learning disabilities or those who do not have access to internet in their homes. This is a great idea.”

If you would like to join these groups tomorrow morning, see their website here to find a school that is registered near you and make your voice heard. Their links also include more information on their initiative.

A flyer from the school walk in information page.

A Taste of Weston IB – Celebrating Community and Cultural Pride

On May 29th, 2019, the Weston Collegiate International Baccalaureate celebrated their 14th annual Taste of Weston with a Multicultural Twist.

This is the poster for the 14th annual Weston IB Multicultural night.

This event is a celebration of IB students completing their exams, as well as an event to build community, within the school and with the surrounding neighbourhood. Houses in the neighbourhood received flyers a few weeks prior to the event, inviting them to share in the celebration.

The event featured a variety of different cultural foods, with samosas being the hot ticket item, and cookies baked by the grade 11 students for a science class project. The event also featured a fashion show, showcasing traditional dress from different places and cultures, a raffle, and a talent show to finish out the night.

I have been to seven IB nights in my career, and I can honestly say, it is something to behold. The students come together to create a wonderful, accepting atmosphere, and all for a good cause. All the money raised goes towards the IB program in the school, which as you may have seen in this article, will have their funding cut in the upcoming TDSB budget. 

Through the hard work of students, teachers and volunteers, this event continues to run and change every year to suit the current culture at the school. A group of students who helped to organize the event said that organizing the event was a collective effort, and would not have been possible without everyone involved and went on to say “the great thing about being in IB is creating a family and that is what pushes us to organize events and bring people in. This family is like no other.”

Weston Students who helped organize IB night 2019 show off their cultural dress at the event.

This is an event that happens annually at the end of May. Please do consider joining them and supporting the students in the future, as these students are the future for our community.

The Future Of Full Day Kindergarten Remains To Be Seen

Weston kindergarten students and parents should keep their eyes on the Ford Government. Most recently, they have decided to reevaluate the full day kindergarten program.This program has been in place since 2014. It’s introduction lightened financial burdens on parents, especially those in low income households, by eliminating the need for private daycare and shifting those costs to the government. The current government has promised to keep the program in place until the end of the 2019-2020 school year, but after that it will be looking at reevaluating the situation. The program is an expensive one, at approximately $1.5 billion per year (according to CTV News).Ford, in a press conference on Wednesday, said that “any decision that’s made is going to be better,” regarding the future of full day kindergarten.

In speaking to one Weston parent, they made the connection that implementing full day kindergarten was a “lengthy and thought out process” and that the future of the program should be as well. If the program gets cancelled, and some of that goes to paying a deficit but other parts go into fixing other issues [like oversized classrooms] within our education system then that seems suitable.” Some options the government may consider are subsidies for low income families who will require daycare, as well as evaluating how much time and money will be spent should this program change and whether this is feasible. This announcement also comes on the heels of the PC Government considering removing class cap sizes from kindergarten and primary grades.

Ford has made it clear that there will be consultations regarding full day kindergarten, so keep an eye open for that. You can also call our MPP Faisal Hassan and let his office know how you feel about this development.

Doug Ford Takes A Swing At The Most Vulnerable – Low-Income Students

Doug Ford is back at it again, leaving arguably the most vulnerable with less. Yesterday morning, Ford announced that there would be several cutbacks to the Ontario Student Assistance Program, as well as cutting tuition by ten percent. It seems as though the Ford government is looking to undo things that were put in place by the Liberal party simply for the sake of that, without evaluating the effects it may have.

OSAP funding will be reverting back to the 2016-2017 funding model, which means that low income students in the $30,000 or less per year income bracket, will not have tuition covered through grants anymore, as well as reducing the amount of grants received by those in higher income brackets. The cap for OSAP will once again be lowered from $170,000 per year to $140,000. This also comes with the elimination of the six month grace period, in which students have six months to pay back their loans, interest free, meaning that students will be charged interest on their loans, from the moment they graduate. Furthermore, students will now have to be out of high school for six years, as opposed to the original four, to be considered independent from their parents, and have their OSAP funding be based on the students income.

As for the ten percent tuition drop, this cost is expected to be absorbed by the universities themselves, through cuts to services available to student. Also, students will now have the opportunity to opt out of extra fees associated with their costs of tuition, like student union fees and others that the government deems non-essential. As students opt out of paying these fees, student governments and unions that are democratically elected to improve student life on campus will be left with little to no funding. This creates difficulty in these groups organising workshops to help students network and get jobs, as well as social events to help with stress and mental health problems, like having therapy dogs come in before the exam period to help everyone de-stress.

Many students in Weston come from low-income households, which makes post-secondary education that much more unattainable. Our MPP, Faisal Hassan, is a member of the New Democrats, who campaigned for free tuition for Ontario students. To express how you feel about these changes, you can call Hassan’s office at 416-243-7984. For more information on this, follow this link to be taken to the Government of Ontario Website.

Mental Health Awareness in Weston for Men’s Mental Health Month

Movember is a term that was coined in 2004, though the first events with this name did not begin until 2007. Movember is a movement designed to bring awareness to men’s health issues like prostate cancer and mental health issues. There is an advertisement for this organization on the north-east corner of Church and Jane, which you may have seen. With the focus of this month being on mental health in men, it is a good time to brush up on the services available to us in Weston.

Within Weston itself, there are no mental health services that pop-up on Google, but this does not mean that residents do not have a need for it. Mental health issues like depression and anxiety are on the rise, especially with adolescents. According to the CAMH website, 34% of high school students report feeling moderate to severe levels of psychological distress, which is a symptom of anxiety and depression, and by the age of 40, 50% of people will have had or have a mental illness.  Many people who experience these illnesses do not seek help as they either do not have access to it or are worried about what those around them may say, as there is a large stigma surrounding mental illness. This month is a good time to remind ourselves and those around us that mental illness is normal and that we are loved.

Looking online can provide those with mental illness with good coping techniques, but it is best to see your doctor if you feel you may be suffering. There are options. Some services in the area surrounding Weston include Etobicoke Psychological Services, The Etobicoke Children’s Centre and the Family Association for Mental Health Everywhere (FAME). Students can also turn to guidance counsellors within their school, as they can be given the accommodations they need. If you or someone you know is suffering from mental illness, there are options for you to get the help you need.

TTC? Yes, Please! (and Thank You)

Just in time for Thanksgiving, the TTC is giving Weston something to be thankful for. As transit goers may have noticed, the TTC has been rolling out a few changes in the past month to make service more accessible and reliable, and will be continuing this Thanksgiving long week-end. In September, they implemented the new numbering for express routes, changing the existing numbers (like the 195 Jane Rocket and the 54E Sheppard Express) to 900 numbering, to make it easier to identify these routes and to add consistency. They have also added green badges on express bus stops for this same purpose.

Rolling out this weekend is the addition of three new routes: the 952 Lawrence West Express, the 989 Weston Express and the 929 Dufferin Express. Though no bus stop lists for either of the routes that run through Weston have been released yet, one can, based on other express routes, make the assumption that these busses will stop at all major intersections. The 952 will run between Lawrence station and Pearson airport. The 989 will operate only during morning and afternoon rush hours. Both routes will have updated schedules as well to make the routes more consistent and accommodate for the new express busses.

These express routes not only help residents in the area get to work faster and easier, it will also hopefully stop the bunching of the 52 busses and bring more people into the neighbourhood. This also allows for an easier commute for students who take TTC, in particular, Weston Collegiate students who commute from Rexdale for the IB and SHSM programs offered. Though this will not ease congestion on the road, it will ease congestion on busses, allowing for a more comfortable commute. There are plans for future upgrades to the system, but already we are seeing big steps forward for our little part of the city. Further information can be found on the TTC website.

Ontario Consults Parents On Their Children’s Futures

Following up with my last story on the Ontario health education curriculum, there has been an update. The Ontario Government has now launched their website to consult with parents about different curricula throughout Ontario. Their website states that they will be addressing concerns such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs, job skills, specifically relating to skilled trade and coding, teaching students valuable life skills like financial literacy, use of technology in classrooms, improving standardised tests (ie. EQAO), a new health education curriculum as well as developing a Parents’ Bill of Rights. The health ed curriculum has been a hot topic of debate since it was implemented and more recently when it was rolled back to 1997 by the Ford Government. Some parents welcomed this return to the old curriculum because they felt that it would be best to tech students certain aspects as home, when they feel appropriate, while others saw this as an attack on student knowledge and a return to the stone-age, so to speak. This web page allows for every voice to be heard, but not only about health education.

STEM programs are growing in many schools and there are summer and march break camps being offered in this field, as many people feel this is the future of the job market. They are also asking for feedback on managing cellphones in classrooms, which is an increasing phenomenon among students; it seems that every other child at the age of 6 or higher has a cellphone or tablet and nearly every student in middle school has one somewhere on their person. The most intriguing issue that they are looking to address and get feedback on is the addition of skills like financial literacy into the curriculum. This could be as basic as teaching students the value of money to something as complicated as investing or doing your own taxes, which can give students more confidence when faced with these important decisions.

You can participate by following the link https://www.ontario.ca/page/for-the-parents. Open submissions are open. You can choose to fill out a private online form through their link or email your submissions to [email protected] with the subject line “Provincial Consultations” by including your name and attaching your submission as a PDF or Word Document. There will also be an online survey and a telephone town hall to come.