York Memorial C.I. gutted in 6-alarm blaze.

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From Toronto District School Board.

A second, devastating fire has gutted the main, 90 year-old building of York Memorial C.I.. A huge plume of smoke was seen over the old City of York today, 24 hours after a smaller fire was discovered and extinguished.

Staff and students had been spending the day at George Harvey C.I. on Keele but were sent home after smoke from the fire hit dangerous levels. Fire Chief Matthew Pegg described the damage to the 90 year-old school as major but believes that the more recent additions containing the library and pool can be saved. Chief Pegg called today’s fire ‘separate and distinct’ and ordered the use of foam in order to suppress and starve the fire. He stated that a 6-alarm fire response is almost unprecedented in Toronto’s history.

High smoke levels were experienced south of Eglinton from Trethewey to Bicknell and firefighters went door to door advising residents to leave.

After yesterday’s fire, a security team was left behind to monitor the building but somehow, a different fire began today.

According to 12 Division’s Superintendent Ron Taverner the first fire was thought of as suspicious – he would not speculate on the probable cause of the second.

This month, the school was set to celebrate the 90th anniversary of its opening in 1929 as a memorial to soldiers who fought in the First World War. The building is currently home to 900 students (none of whom were in attendance today) and contains many artifacts and unique structures. These are feared to be lost as a result of the blaze.

Councillor Frances Nunziata was at the fire scene along with Mayor Tory. Nunziata said that she hopes that the school can be rebuilt inside while salvaging whatever is left. She said there will need to be a lot of healing in the next few months.

The only good result from today is that there were zero casualties.

School still sitting empty

The dispute between St John the Evangelist and Metrolinx has reached City News.

City says the school is empty because Metrolinx and the TCDSB can’t agree on—of all things—construction of the playground.

The school was supposed to be finished by September, 2018. If an agreement is not signed by tomorrow, the school’s opening may be delayed again.

St John students have been bussed out of town for the past 8 years.

 

 

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.

Saint John the Evangelist opening delayed, again

The St. John the Evangelist school opening will be delayed again. The new school, which was long overdue, was supposed to open in the fall of 2018; it will now open–hopefully–in time for students to return in September, 2019. 

Dave Bennett, who is running for trustee, says the delay is due to a legal dispute between the TCDSB and Metrolinx over the culvert; “Without these finalized agreements, culvert construction to replace the ditch between the school and the Metrolinx tunnel lid is on hold”.

 

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.

Back to School, Back to 1998

School is back in session, and these first few weeks have surely been hectic as parents and students get back in the groove of the scholastic year. Teachers have also had to get back in the swing of things with not only new students but a new curriculum, or should I say old. Before this school year started, the Ford government rolled back the sex ed curriculum to that of 1998, scrapping the 2015 version for a “new” version that is to be released in the future, once more consulting is done with parents and teachers. The old curriculum fails to include conversations about cyber bullying and consent, among a few other things. Curriculum nights are coming up for most schools, it may be worth having a chat with your child’s teacher and asking them what they intend to teach. TDSB and TCDSB trustees have made statements that they will be following the 2015 curriculum, but it never hurts to be certain about what is being taught.

Children today are not children from twenty years ago. They are surrounded every day by technology and media, much of which we as adults have a hard time sifting through. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and other social media sites are easily accessible, especially when it appears every other child has a smart device.  If the Ontario Government feels it is essential to roll back changes, it may be time to have a serious look at what our children are being taught and put in our two cents. You can access both versions of the curriculum on the government of Ontario website or through a simple google search, if you would like to have a look for yourself.