Schools

School Capacity in Ward 15

Even though summer has just begun, it (unfortunately) won't be long until the families of Don Valley West begin preparing for the upcoming school year. Limited school capacity is a critical issue for families across Ward 15, particularly in the neighbourhoods immediately north and south of Eglinton Avenue. While building new schools remains within the jurisdiction of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), I've worked closely with the TDSB to pursue new strategies to address school capacity issues in Ward 15 and across Toronto.

After a monumental community effort opposing the tower development at John Fisher Public School, the TDSB implemented a new policy to ensure they are involved in the evaluation of major development applications. In many cases, this means actively opposing development applications in neighbourhoods where the existing school capacity is not sufficient to accommodate new students in the area. I have raised the issue of school capacity during the development review process on several occasions but without direct involvement from the TDSB. Going forward, I'm optimistic that the TDSB's support will help us to secure better outcomes for our communities.

Over the past eight years, I've been advocating for a moratorium, or "hold", on development in neighbourhoods where there is inadequate infrastructure, community amenities, and schools to support a growing population. Last month, North York Community Council received a letter from the TDSB requesting a hold on the approval of a development proposal in the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood for the first time. The TDSB's letter cited the lack of schools in the area and requested a pause on the application until it could be determined that there was sufficient school capacity to support the additional density.

As you may know, Provincial legislation prevents the TDSB from collecting educational development charges (EDCs). The current regulations prevent school boards with excess capacity in any area from accessing the money that developers pay to the schools' system when they build new sites. Due to declining enrollment in certain parts of Toronto, the TDSB will never meet this essential requirement. Funding from development charges could be used to improve school capacity in high-growth areas and support urgent school infrastructure needs.

Until we see major change on this front, I will continue to work with the TDSB to respond to development applications on a case-by-case basis in our neighbourhood. It's critical to ensure that the City has adequate hard and soft infrastructure to support additional residential density before issuing building permits.

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I was honoured to speak at the graduating ceremonies of several esteemed schools in Ward 15. I wish all the graduates of Bedford Park Public School, Hodgson Middle School, Northlea Public School, and Leaside High School (as well as those whose graduation I did not attend!) the very best in the next chapter of their lives.

Kids’ Lit Quiz Competition Winners – Hodgson Middle School

Written by guest contributor: Jennifer Ankenmann

In January, four students from Hodgson Middle School in Ward 15 won the Kids’ Lit Quiz Canadian National Final, hosted at McMaster University. They will be travelling to Singapore in July to compete in the 2019 Kids’ Lit Quiz World Final. It is the second consecutive year this team competed in the Canadian National Final and this year they were victorious!

Team Canada members Gillian, Lila, Julia, and Leah are working hard in preparation for the World Final and look forward to meeting students from other countries who share their love of reading.  They hosted an online silent auction at the end of May to fund raise for their flights to Singapore.

Kids’ Lit Quiz, also known as the Sport of Reading, is an international quiz game for 10-13 year olds that tests their knowledge of children’s books. It inspires students to become lifelong readers by emphasizing the fun of reading and showing young readers that they belong to a worldwide community. Kids’ Lit Quiz takes place in 13 countries, and is run by volunteers in every country. In 2019, 200 teams across Canada competed for the honour to represent our country at this year’s World Final.

On behalf of Don Valley West, congratulations to our Ward 15 Team Canada members and best of luck in the World Final!

School Visits at City Hall

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Welcoming student groups to City Hall is one of the best parts of my role as a City Councillor – It reminds me of the importance of the work we do every day to build a more vibrant, liveable, and safe City.
 
In February, I welcomed students from Northlea Public School in Leaside who stopped in to the TTC Board Meeting I was chairing to observe local transit planning in action. I was impressed by the great questions and ideas the students shared with me.
 
The City of Toronto offers free educational programs and tours for students of all ages. More information for parents or teachers can be found here.

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Crossing Guards Update

In recent months, I have been contacted by Don Valley West parents regarding the unacceptable gaps in crossing guard coverage in some of our school communities.
 
The City of Toronto is in the process of transitioning responsibility for the school crossing guard program from Toronto Police Services (TPS) to its Transportation Services division. While TPS is responsible for the provision of crossing guards for the 2018-2019 school year, the City has worked with them to contract an independent security service provider for relief coverage when a regular crossing guard is absent from work.

This school year, a number of crosswalks in our neighbourhoods have been without regular guard coverage due to the unexpected number of guards that retired and newly warranted locations.
 
As a result of this, I moved a motion at the December 2018 meeting of City Council requesting that the General Manager, Transportation Services make recommendations to improve and enhance the school crossing guard program. I have since followed this up with two meetings City management requesting immediate attention to the matter and urging staff to use all tools at their disposal to ensure that the City is providing reliable crossing guard coverage.
 
The City responded by pursuing an additional sole-sourced contract to manage demand and fill the remaining crossing guard vacancies in Ward 15. These new crossing guards have now completed police vulnerable sector screening and training and commenced duties on March 4th.
 
The importance of school crossing safety cannot be overstated and I will continue to advocate for students and parents across the ward until this issue is resolved. If you notice an unstaffed crossing guard post, please report it to the City's school crossing guard program by emailingSchoolCrossingGuard@toronto.ca, or call 311.

Crossing Guards

In recent months, I have been contacted by Don Valley West parents regarding the unacceptable gaps in crossing guard coverage in some of our school communities.
 
The City of Toronto is in the process of transitioning responsibility for the school crossing guard program from Toronto Police Services (TPS) to its Transportation Services division. While TPS is responsible for the provision of crossing guards for the 2018-2019 school year, the City has worked with them to contract an independent security service provider for relief coverage when a regular crossing guard is absent from work.

This school year, a number of crosswalks in our neighbourhoods have been without regular guard coverage due to the unexpected number of guards that retired and surplus of newly warranted locations.
 
As a result of this, I moved a motion at the December 2018 meeting of City Council requesting that the General Manager, Transportation Services make recommendations to improve and enhance the school crossing guard program. I have since followed up with two personal letters to the General Manager requesting her immediate attention to the matter and urging staff to use all tools at their disposal to ensure that the City is providing reliable crossing guard coverage.
 
The importance of school crossing safety cannot be overstated and I will continue to advocate for students and parents across the ward until this issue is resolved. If you notice a vacant crossing guard post, please report it to the City's school crossing guard program by emailing SchoolCrossingGuard@toronto.ca, or call 311.

A New Playground for Leaside – Turning Grey to Green

Green space contributes to the vibrancy and livability of our neighbourhoods. A new, greener playground at St. Anselm Public School will benefit students attending the school and families living in the area.
 
In January, I had a productive discussion with Don Valley West's TCDSB Trustee, Angela Kennedy, about strategies to secure funding for the St. Anselm School Playground Revitalization project. Thanks to the community's collective efforts, I'm happy to report that the TCDSB has officially committed to funding the required paving and sub-surface work.  
 
If you would like to learn more about the project, please visit:https://ca.gofundme.com/Stanselm. The fantastic parent community has fundraised almost $200,000 of their $250,000 goal. On behalf of the neighbourhood, thank you to Nicole Watts, Christopher Burkett, and the rest of the Revitalization Committee for their hard work.

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