Kinder kids have nowhere to go
REMOVAL OF BEFORE-AND-AFTER SCHOOL PROGRAMS
By Camille Cendana
When my daughter started Junior Kindergarten last year, I knew I wanted to be involved in her school’s community. Our Lady of Lourdes, the Catholic elementary school in St. Jamestown where my daughter attended, had a snack program that I volunteered at until my son was born. After that, I dropped off and picked her up daily, frequently chatting with her teacher, the Early Childhood Educators and other parents. I relished this time, thinking in the future I would not be this plugged in. When the school year ended, I began thinking about going back to work.
What I discovered in the first couple weeks sent me in a panic. I began calling the daycares in my area to put my children on the waitlist but every centre told me their licence was changing September 2013 and would no longer take school-aged children because of Full Day Kindergarten. I then looked at some of the community’s after school programs – two local community centres and an art centre – but their after school programs were for children aged 6 and up, not for children in kindergarten.
So in July, I contacted the principal, the trustee, Jo-Ann Davis and the superintendent. Ms. Davis returned my email and she connected me to the Senior Manager, Community Relations and Head of the Before and After School Programs, Marilyn Rodriguez-Wright, who sent me a list of 22 centres. The result after I called each one: only two daycares took children from Our Lady of Lourdes, but only ONE accepted City subsidy.
The government of Ontario’s website stated, “Boards are required to provide before- and after-school programs for full-day kindergarten students at schools where there is interest from the families of at least 20 children.” I was told the same line when I asked in January 2012 – there was no interest from parents. Yet, that was in 2012, the context has now changed, so why didn’t the school assess the need for care at our school now? Later, the Principal told me 23 of our students were registered to be bussed to the lone childcare centre, she still claimed there was no interest.
Rodriguez-Wright stated she was aware that many centres no longer served 4 and 5 year olds and attributed it to “funding of that space and staffing” deferring the Boards’ role legislated by the Ministry. The trustee herself stated, a “ before-and-after program at a school is strictly up to the parents themselves” yet when I asked how parents would even know to demand this, she admitted, “if the parents are not aware that this is the process, then there is no empowerment.” One of the care facilities told me that she had brought the issue to them but in March 2013, they brushed it off and said it was too late.
In the context of the Filipino Community, the neighborhood served by my daughter’s school, St. Jamestown, has a Filipino population of 20% according to the 2006 Census. This is one of the highest concentrations of Filipinos in Toronto. The last three Censuses both listed the Philippines as the top source country for immigrants in this community. The percentage of Visible Minorities is 68.2%, while recent immigrants account for 22%. In addition, the Fraser Institute states that the parents’ average income at Our Lady of Lourdes is $32,700. This is not only a story of a school board that disregarded their responsibility to their parents, but neglected a highly racialized and economically marginalized community.
A recent Toronto Star article stated that many care centres that are administering the B&A programs on behalf of schools are struggling with the transition and compared it to school boards in Ottawa and Waterloo which have taken on the responsibility to provide a seamless learning day and have seen their students thriving. For the Filipino community’s children in St. Jamestown, what does this mean if a B&A program isn’t even made available? There isn’t even a chance for our children.
For the last several weeks, I`ve spoken to a dozen parents and their resourcefulness in this situation is nothing but inspirational. From changing work schedules to finding neighbours/relatives to watch their kids, every parent tried to find a way to make their situation work. Despite calls from parents, so far all we have been promised is a community meeting “sometime in the fall” and that our Principal and Ms. Rodriguez-Wright are “seriously discussing” the issue. Obviously, this falls of our demand of a B&A Program to be implemented by this January and at minimum, someone needs to take responsibility and apologize to the parents of this school. Every person I talk to – the trustee, principal, the community relations manager – all deferred the blame to someone else, even to us parents.
Parents are willing to do what it takes to get the best for our children. We want a before-and-after school program that extends the learning day and is available for both kindergarten students, and grades 1-6. Something that many other schools within the TCDSB offer. This can be done together, but it will start with respect for our community.
Are you a parent for Our Lady of Lourdes and would have used a Before and After School program for your child? Email us at Parents4OLOL@gmail.com! If you are appalled by this blatant neglect and would like to support us contact the TCDSB trustee, Jo-Ann Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 416-512-3409.