Weston students streamed into dead end pathways

York South–Weston students are being streamed into high-school programs that limit their life opportunities, according to Social Planning Toronto.

The province formally did away with streamed high-school programming many years ago, but much of the old system persists, SPT says.  The results are profound: students choose “academic” or “applied” courses in grade 8 that will affect their careers, and earnings, for decades—and they do so without knowing the difference.

Further, “low-income and marginalized students [are] over-represented in lower level courses”.

Map of applied courses
A single map in the report tells a sad and scary story: students in the poorer horseshoe around wealthy old-Toronto take more applied courses.

Applied courses are an academic lobster trap: easy to get into, but hard to get out of. Students are asked to take make-up courses in the summer or after school to make the transition into the academic program.

The report recommends:

  • Delaying choices about education pathways for as long as possible
  • Improving de-streaming
  • Providing better support for students who want to move into the academic stream
  • Improving communication about pathways to parents and students
  • Providing better one-on-one support, especially from teachers

 

 

 

Weston CI brings home gold

Weston CI students are off to Winnipeg to compete in a national competition for high-skills majors. Richard La and Jahmar Wright won a provincial gold for their video documenting the culinary arts. The three beautiful films for their local, regional, and provincial wins are really worth a watch!

SKILLS a journey .. from Weston TV on Vimeo.

Weston schools face closure review

Every driver eventually faces the same question: when does fixing cost more than replacing? Your correspondent predicts that the TDSB is asking the same question now about several local schools.

Weston CI is among 8 schools in Ward 6 facing an existential review. The TDSB is conducting a “Long-Term Program & Accommodation Strategy“, and is looking to “reduce surplus space and build viable programs” at the following schools:

  • Rockcliffe MS,
  • Dennis Avenue CS
  • Weston CI
  • Cordella Jr. PS,
  • Harwood PS,
  • George Syme CS,
  • Roselands Jr. PS,
  • Lambton Park CS¹

I am not an education administrator, but I see the possibility for amputation synergies. Many of these schools need almost as much in repairs as they would cost to replace. Perhaps the TDSB will do the same thing car owners do: junk the heap.

Rockcliffe, though not properly in Mount Dennis or Weston (the beats I stick to) is illustrative. As well as being ‘underutilized’, it is on the critical list for repairs: more than $7 million of work needs to be done. Its repairs will cost almost as much as a whole new school: the province estimates that they add up to 93% of its replacement value.

Surely it will be tempting to close a school in that kind of shape if it is not being much used—and just as surely it must be tempting to put as few repairs as possible into a dying school, fulfilling the vicious cycle.

In order of rustbucketiness, then, the underutilized schools being reviewed are:

  • Rockcliffe MS: 93% rust
  • Dennis Avenue CS: 58% rust
  • Weston CI: 55%
  • Harwood PS, 49%
  • Cordella Jr. PS 48%
  • Roselands Jr. PS: 41%
  • George Syme CS 29%
  • Lambton Park CS 20%

I’m sure there are many factors the TDSB will consider—including politics—but the cost of fixing a forsaken school must be high among them. I predict, therefore, that the viability of Rockcliffe, Dennis Avenue, and Weston CI will be closely examined.

The process, it is clear, will be very slow. Staff are currently working on some of the schools, and public consultation will begin this fall. Other schools will not be reviewed until next year.


¹The special education programs at Haney Centre and York Humber may also be amalgamated.

CR Marchant in ‘Critical’ condition

As your kids head back to school next week, pity the caretakers and builders who have been working through the summer. The province released numbers about the state of repair of all of Ontario schools. It’s not great. CR Marchant is in critical condition–in worse condition than 95% of all the schools in the province.

There are 4,656 public schools in Ontario. In order of worst condition to best, Weston’s schools are ranked:

The TDSB is at pains to say that the schools are perfectly safe. Schools need repairs, but no students are in danger.

Parents and citizens can see the shortcomings on each school’s website. CR needs repairs to its HVAC, roadways, and play areas among others. Despite being in better condition, Weston Memorial has many “urgent” needs, including water distribution, the roof, floors and doors.

Conning Tower #2 online

If you have an hour—or 12—to spare, the Toronto Public Library has posted issue #2 of The Conning Tower, the yearbook of the Weston High and Vocational School. High school yearbooks generally give me nightmares, but this one is special: it’s from 1928.

Weston High and Vocational became Weston CI, the second-oldest high school in Toronto , and the Conning Tower continues to be produced. Some of the themes remain the same: moral exhortation (though directed at gossip, admittedly a little more tame than the issues students face now), pranks, inside jokes, and awkward photos. Squibb’s makes an appearance too, as do some dearly departed business: CCM, Moffat—and a bowling alley.

The main changes in the school are those in the gymnasium, where many new sets of apparatus have installed. A set of rings and a ladder give ample opportunity for the pupils to test their muscles. Chest bars have been created for the benefit of those who wish to give their stomach muscles a little variation in exercise. A springboard has been procured for the tumblers to wax daring on. These new additions, with last year’s apparatus of the Horse. Parallel Bars and. the High Bar, furnish the school with very respectable gymnasium equipment.

TDSB plan emerging

Weston CI will likely be getting more students from Nelson A Boylen Collegiate.

The CBC and 680 News reported that Weston CI is “under review for possible closure” and is “under used”. This is not true. The TDSB report says quite clearly that Nelson Boylen has low enrolment and that it will “explore a review with Nelson Boylen CI … and Weston CI to address low enrolment, underutilization and secondary program viability at Nelson Boylen CI.”

Weston CI is 72% utilized, comfortably above the 65% enrolment threshold. Nelson A. Boylen, on Falstaff Ave, is at only 13% utilization. The school is currently also used by the Catholic board.

Weston schools will not be closed

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%.