80 people come out to support Olympic Variety and Weston

Dozens showed up tonight to rid the corner of King and Elm of bad vibes—and to show their support for both the proprietors of Olympic Variety and local residents, who have put up with a fair bit of violence of late. Suri Weinberg-Linsky, the organizer, called the event “a community hug”.

Weinberg-Linsky is a business owner herself; she runs Squibb’s Stationers on Weston Rd. She said that she was motivated to bring people together because “as a store owner, there’s always that fear, when you’re by yourself, that somebody’s going to come in and rob you.” Olympic Variety was robbed by three young men two weeks ago. One of the owners, Helen, was injured in the robbery.

About 80 people came to show they have also had enough of violence in the community. Sgt Jason Craft of 31 division and Councillor Nunziata attended and showed their concern.

Sgt Craft took some tough questions from the attendees, some of whom grilled him about insufficient police presence in the neighbourhood and the results of the investigations.

Craft was sympathetic, but couldn’t make promises. He said “I can’t speak in terms of specifics with those investigations because those are ongoing.”

Suri Weinberg-Linsky

Pink Parade in Weston

The 7th annual Weekend to End Women’s Cancers walkathon brought thousands of pink-clad and boisterous women (and a few pink-clad and boisterous men!) through Weston.

Residents came out early in the morning to cheer walkers on. Most wore pink in support, but a few went all out. One young woman dressed up like an enormous baby and broke out her best dance moves to keep the walkers motivated.

The participants covered 60km over two days, going from the Princes Gates to Downsview Park and back to The Ex. This year, more than 4600 walkers raised nearly $11 million for Princess Margaret Hospital cancer research.

Rally to be held at King and Elm to support Olympic Variety

The Weston Village Residents’ Association is organizing a night out at the corner of King St and Elm this Monday. The gathering is to “show support for Helen and John [the proprietors of Olympic Variety], to send out good vibes and to let the community know that we will not stand for our neighbourhood being bullied in any way.”

That intersection has had a fair bit of drama over the past few weeks. Olympic Variety was robbed last week, and there was a shooting the week before. Helen, a proprietor of Olympic Variety, was hurt in the robbery.

The gathering will start at 7:30.

Full-time Kindergarten starts in Weston

There aren’t a lot of perks that go with living in the poorest riding in Toronto—but there is one. Full-time Kindergarten.

Only 15% of the elementary schools in Ontario will be getting full-time kindergarten this year. And, as the father of a kindergartener, I can tell you, 85% of parents look at me with envy.

Weston is unusual. Most of the elementary schools here have full-time junior Kindergarten: HJ Alexander, Weston Memorial, and Portage Trail all do. (Pelmo Park and St John the Evangelist do not.)

Weston has this high proportion of full-time kindergartens because the province tried to place them in low-income neighbourhoods.

The provincial Liberals say that

“A full day of learning will provide four- and five-year-olds with the strong foundation they need for future learning…. Students who achieve early success in school are more likely to perform well later in school and go on to postsecondary education.”

On her website, Laura Albanese, the MPP for York-South Weston, says that children

“will learn new skills and have enriching experiences to help prepare them academically and socially for Grade 1 and get them on track for future success.”

This may be, but not all is rosy in Weston’s elementary schools. Most of the schools are not doing as well as the provincial average in grade 3 achievement. Pelmo, Weston Memorial, and Portage were below average in all of the categories measured. HJ Alexander and neighbouring St John were above.

The deficits are sometimes shocking. At Portage, only about a third of the students meet the provincial standards. Three years ago, more than half did. At Weston Memorial, about two-thirds of the students make the grade, but that number is falling rapidly. In 2006, Weston Memorial trounced the provincial tests.

The data whipsaw around, so it may be that the declines in school achievement are nothing to be concerned about. But perhaps they are. It certainly worries me that the province appears to have not paid much attention to the quality of the school when it decided where to place kindergartens. Under-performing Portage got one, but the dog-eared Pelmo did not. Hot shot HJ got a kindergarten, but its Catholic over-achieving brother, St John, did not.

Weston to get a media centre

Weston is one step closer to having a digital arts and computer skills centre. The centre will let youth explore “digital arts (animation, web design, digital photography, audio and video editing) and Microsoft curricula”.

In the last City Council meeting, UrbanArts, a neighbourhood arts and development organization, was given a green light to top-up the finding for the  “Pro Tech Media Centre and Youth Arts Hub”. The city was responsible for the bulk of the funding, but the program required that partners make contributions. Microsoft contributed $1 million citywide for the ProTech projects; UrbanArts contributed $95,000.

There are several ProTech Media Centres elsewhere in Toronto. Rexdale, Malvern, and the Eglintion East-Kennedy Park neighbourhoods have them already; the Weston-Mount Dennis centre is the last of the planned locations. The city says that the centres will “introduce youth to potential careers in new media while providing computer literacy skills and creating opportunities for self-expression.”

The first phase of construction will begin this fall.

West Park Healthcare Centre to offer primary healthcare

Are you struggling to find a family doctor? Do you have to go to another location for appointments with other health care professionals or to fill a prescription? Good news may come soon from West Park Healthcare Centre, which has announced that a team of health care professionals will be set up in the near future to cover ‘primary health care’. Details at the moment are sketchy, but the announcement can only be good news to people in the Weston community.

In addition to doctors, the team will include other professionals such as a dietician, nurse practitioner, social worker, patient educator, pharmacist, and chiropodist. Presumably patient records and referrals would be shared so that many needs could be met by a single team. One drawback is the lack of TTC service to the main buildings— currently it’s quite a walk along Buttonwood Avenue from the nearest stop at Weston and Jane, especially if you’re fighting a cold.

West Park’s Director of Public Relations, Vince Rice, says that more details will be available once written confirmation of the announcement is received from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. He also says that West Park continues to lobby the TTC for a closer drop-off location, but has so far been unsuccessful.

WestonWeb will bring you further details as soon as they are announced.

John Tory to moderate Weston mayoral debate

John Tory will be the moderator for the Weston-area mayoral debate.

The debate will include the five most prominent candidates: Rob Ford, Joe Pantalone, Rocco Rossi, George Smitherman, and Sarah Thomson.  Rocco Achampong, who has not been prominent in this year’s contest, will join them, as he grew up in the area.

John Tory is, of course, the former leader of the Conservative Party, former mayoral candidate, and an all-round go-getter. He was widely rumoured to have been considering a run for the mayorship himself.

The debate has been organized by the residents’ associations of Weston, Silverthorn, Mount Dennis, and Greenhills. It will be held at 7:30 on September 9 at York Memorial Collegiate, 2690 Eglinton Avenue West, at the corner of Keele St. and Eglinton Ave.