Weston school budgets face cuts

Weston’s schools are facing budget cuts under the new PC government. The French immersion and the IB program will both be trimmed if the budget goes ahead. The late-start French program also faces complete cancellation.

French immersion students in grades 4 through 6 who catch buses to Valleyfield in Etobicoke will no longer be able to. The draft budget says “the cost of delivering French Immersion (FI) and Extended French (EF) in its current form is so high, that a complete reduction in transportation services is needed to operate the programs with budget.”

The TDSB also says that they will be reevaluating the French programs. Our area is unusual, because we have late-start French immersion, and students start in grade 4 rather than in senior Kindergarten. The TDSB says that they will be looking at “existing entry points” to “provide a better experience for all students”.

Weston CI offers an International Baccalaureate Program, which gives advanced standing at university to high-achieving students. That program will continue to be offered, but “associated per-student fees will no longer be covered by the TDSB. [A] sliding scale will be created to support IB Diploma students who would benefit from financial support.”

In Peel Region, the IB fees are  $250 for grades 9 and 10 and $2700 for grades 11 and 12.

Ms Madarasz is an outstanding principal

Weston Memorial’s own Principal Madarasz was recognized as one of Canada’s outstanding principals.

Ms Madarasz (I still dare not call her ‘Karen’) will be honoured on February 27 at an awards gala at the Carlu downtown for her work “to improve math and literacy scores amongst a diverse group of students, with a particular focus on boys’ student achievement…. Karen also worked to create more inviting green spaces in the school, soliciting grants and engaging the community to support new gardens, bird feeders and outdoor seating. As a result, students improved both academically and behaviourly.”

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.

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%.

 

Memorial hockey tourney for young man

A memorial hockey game will be held in Weston this weekend to remember Terry Trafford, the young man from Weston who took his own life in the winter. The event will be raising money for Kids’ Help Phone.

A number of community groups, teams, and individuals have donated to in memory of Trafford, and the Weston Minor Hockey League and a number of teams gave considerably. So far, they have raised nearly $2200.

The organizers hope to raise more money at the game with a charity raffle and barbeque.

The game, barbeque, and raffle will be this Sunday, May 11, starting at 10, in yard of Weston Memorial, which Trafford attended.

f3f6f704-566a-427c-893c-07b30b10e399_profile

More details on potential Pelmo land sale

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.

Book Review: Safe as Houses

Safe As Houses, by Eric Walters, is ripping good story about Hurricane Hazel and its effects on three kids who are stranded in a house slowly being flooded. Weston and  Etobicoke figure prominently–Roy’s house, in fact, is only a few feet from where the story takes place, and one of the characters, David McBride, shares the name of the man who owned my house before me.

Elizabeth Hardy, the protagonist and narrator, is a 13-year old just starting to grow up. She splits her love between Donnie Davis (a boy in her class) and Elvis Presley; she babysits David and Suzie McBride every day after school to save up for his albums. The McBrides have just moved from the big city, Toronto, to the sticks, and David, the eldest, is still angry about it. His relationship with Elizabeth is strained: he is almost old enough to take care of himself, but he cannot behave well enough.

The story takes place after several days of torrential rain, just before the Humber River reaches its peak. The children walk home from school—presumably Weston Memorial—in the lashing storm and cross a footbridge, which, when it is destroyed, will separate them from rescue. What unfolds is a night of progressing horror. Elizabeth wakes up to find water up to her knees. It continues to rise, threatening and terrifying the children. Like the best horror movie monsters, the river is one dimensional, indestructible, and pitiless. It knows nothing but how to rise.

The book is written for young adults, but I enjoyed it and stayed up long past my bedtime to finish it. The story starts a little slowly and the characters are, at first, drawn a bit broadly—but suitably for a young-adult audience.

Before I read Safe as Houses, I thought of the Hurricane Hazel disaster as an abstract catastrophe that was the result, primarily, of bad city planning. This book opened my eyes. The hurricane was an epic natural disaster, and it is described grippingly in the last third of the story. The deaths of passing characters are haunting, and give a human dimension to the statistics: 32 people in Weston died, and 81 were killed in Toronto.

(If you buy the book, I make a 45¢ commission)