Save our Community
Chatsworth Drive is lined with lawn signs as are streets throughout the John Wanless Public School area. Check out the soswanless.com website This community is up and ready to take on several levels of government to protect their community during what’s likely to be a tough fight ahead with boundary changes on the horizon. Much may be learned from these parents and neighbourhood residents about organizing around school facilities.
As background the website refers us to a report late last month in the Toronto Star. Read on:
Ontario needs to fix the full-day kindergarten problem it created: Editorial
CHRIS YOUNG / THE CANADIAN PRESS
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne speaks from the floor of the Legislature after the throne speech on Feb. 19, 2013. She will now have to find the money to help urban schools struggling with limited space for full-day kindergarten.
It’s a classic case of “good idea, bad execution.” And unfortunately for parents of young children, the Ontario government’s inadequate planning for full-day kindergarten is creating a mess in crowded urban schools. This is what happens when politics trumps foresight.
The blame for this (and a few other lingering bombs) lies with Ottawa-South MPP Dalton McGuinty, previously known as the “education premier.” McGuinty began with a commendable passion for early childhood education, which gives kids a strong foundation in the critical early learning years. But he pushed full-day kindergarten without assuring adequate funding to build classrooms for all those bright young minds. It’s akin to political attention deficit disorder — creating headlines without a long-term financial plan.
As the Star’s Kristin Rushowy reports, the government is now telling school boards to find low-cost options instead of spending on expensive “bricks and mortar” construction costs.
It’s a clear abdication of responsibility for one of their high-profile projects and it’s hurting urban schools with no space to expand. These schools are already bursting with students or were built on such a small footprint that there is no room for portables, making construction the only option.
If the freshly ensconced Premier Kathleen Wynne wants to put her imprint on education, she needs to give extra money to GTA boards struggling with these problems, such as those in Toronto and Peel Region.
It doesn’t look promising. Speaking in perfect bureaucratese, Wynne’s new Education Minister Liz Sandals said, “The province has flowed the money that we’ve always said we would flow.” That’s it, folks.
Parents across the GTA who once applauded full-day kindergarten are now furious that boards may be forced to redraw school boundaries, bus older students to different schools, add portables or even send students to off-site spaces. The best scenario is the purchase of high-end portables so the oldest students can free up classrooms for the youngest.
Whenever there is a leadership vacuum, someone will find a way to fill it. In this case it is parents who are stepping up to avoid the redrawing of boundaries. They are touring schools with principals and board staff, scouting unique ways to patch together broom closets with seminar rooms to create classroom space.
Even that isn’t perfect. As Toronto trustee Sheila Cary-Meagher says, schools are now spending to fit classrooms into odd spaces or building expensive hallways leading to “modular” units that are supposed to be cheaper than real construction. “We are fixing things that are illogical,” she says. It’s a worrisome observation.
None of this is a surprise. When the program began in 2010, the province promised $1.4 billion in renovation and construction costs for new classrooms. Boards got started immediately on schools that had ample space. Now, in years four and five of the rollout, boards are told to cut costs just as they begin dealing with schools that need construction dollars.
And, just to add another layer of annoyance, this is exacerbated by the government’s 20-student cap on primary classes. Small classrooms are undoubtedly a positive step forward but the caps have (perhaps unexpectedly) played a role in the current kindergarten mess.
All this creates a problem for Wynne, who is trying to brand her government as “renewed.” She seems to have stopped her party’s slide in the polls, but she can’t get a break.
From the latest batch of “found” power-plant documents to the kindergarten crisis in urban schools, Wynne finds herself cleaning up problems left over from her predecessor. She had better fix this. A good start would be to properly fund full-day kindergarten.