The TDSB released a list of under-enrolled schools this week under pressure from Liz Sandals, the provincial Minister of Education. Politicians will now be forced to consider closing some of them. The good news: Weston schools are not threatened. The bad news: several in Mount Dennis are, as are schools that host recreation programs attended by Weston families.
About 1 in 5 Toronto elementary schools has low enrolment, and about 1 in 3 high schools, does, according to the Globe. Not all of these schools will be closed, of course; the TDSB will consider—and try to punt on—each one.
All five Weston schools (Pelmo, Memo, CR, CI, and HJ) have high-enough enrolment to miss the cut. Other area schools, though, are in danger.
Dennis Ave: 59%
Amesbury MS: 56%
York Humber SS: 56%
Maple Leaf PS: 64% enrolment
Nelson Boylen: 13% enrolment
The Elms: 49%
Boylen, Amesbury, and the Elms all host community recreation programs such as swimming.
Weston public schools may have another kind of problem: over-enrolment. HJ Alexander is currently at 121% of its capacity. Pelmo is at 109%.
Frances Nunziata’s office has dug up some more info on HJ Alexander’s yellow card. Jennifer says,
“The Public Health Inspector identified a need for a separate handwashing sink in the kitchen area. The operator asked for additional time to initiate discussion with the TDSB to have another sink installed…
The utensils are currently being taken to another kitchen in the building with a two compartment sink to clean and sanitize the utensils, which addresses the significant health concern on a temporary basis to allow the operator to work on obtaining the separate handwashing sink. Because this is a temporary measure and the requirement of a separate handwashing basin remains, they still have a conditional pass.
TPH agreed to the extension of time because of the adequate temporary solution which is in place.
The actions taken were mindful of the health and safety of the children first and the importance of providing/maintaining a before and after school program to help the working parents in the community.
Your Humble Correspondent remains unconvinced that it takes 9 months to install a sink, having done it recently himself in an afternoon. Plumbing is a drag, to be sure, but so are significant public health infractions that remain unaddressed. And walking across the building to wash dishes is a huge pain—and huge pains create incentives to jeopardize health .
The HJ Alexander before- and after-school program received a second yellow card from Toronto Public Health on December 18.
The school has now received two warnings for not providing a hand-washing sink for employees.
Conditional passes (yellow cards) are quite uncommon, and are only issued for significant infractions. Toronto Public Health says that the infractions must be corrected immediately, and that the location will be reinspected within 48 hours. That does not appear to have happened at HJ Alexander.
HJ Alexander also received a conditional pass last April.
Your humble correspondent has put in a few calls to see why the reinspections did not happen. I will update you when I find out.
The traffic around HJ Alexander should get better after the Etobicoke York Community Council meets later this month. The city is asking the council to change parking regulations to make traffic flow better, especially during the pick-up and drop-off periods.
Some of the “No Parking” areas will be removed and replaced with “No Stopping” and “No Standing” areas.
Chris Tonks, the school trustee for our district, opposes the sale of land around Pelmo Park school. He says, however, that the possible sale of school land around Toronto is because the the Ministry of Education is drying up capital funding for schools, and there is “some immediate need” for capital funding.
Tonks said that the schools in Weston are “very well enrolled” right now, and that HJ Alexander is “bursting at the seams” because of an influx of former St John the Evangelist students. He said that he wants to keep the green space around Pelmo Park intact to accommodate future students, since the redevelopment in Weston may lead to increased enrollment. “Pelmo Park is really the only site we have capacity to expand. I don’t think we should sacrifice that capacity. If we sever and we lose that, where are we going to get that greenspace to build?” he said.
Responding to readers’ questions about merging schools in Weston, I asked Vince Baglione, the Principal of Weston Memorial, about the state of his building. He said that the school is fine condition, though they will need a new roof and to work with a few building “quirks”. Both men said that the board is moving to a K–8 model, but that this will be several years away; according to Tonks “there’s no money for expansion right now.”
I tried to get Laura Albanese’s response, but she and I played phone tag over the past few days. I missed two of her calls because I was out. She was in a meeting when I called her back.
HJ Alexander, the elementary school at King and George Sts is a super school. It stands apart from most of the schools in Weston, which are struggling.
HJ grade 3 students did better than the provincial and city averages in reading and writing; 71% of students met the provincial reading standards at HJ, while only 65% of the province as a whole did. The results in writing were fantastic: 86% of HJ students could pass the test, compared to 73% of the province.
In math, however, things were not so bright. HJ students fell behind their city and provincial peers. 64% of the school met the standard, but 69% of the province and 70% of the board did.
HJ has always done very well. HJ students have been better than their peers for four of the past five years in every category. (In 2007–8, they were not). This year, in fact, is a bit of an off year—the scores are down or even in all three categories, and below par in one.