Recently, parents at Garden Ave Public School in Toronto got a shock -- we were told that our kids would potentially be forced to move to another school just over 1km away, with the TDSB saying they think that distance is not "too far" for JK kids to walk. The school is gorgeous and big but desperately under-populated. Our school is small and hidden and nearly at capacity.
Needless to say, we've rallied. There's been some negative backlash against the parents who are a part of Keep Garden United -- claiming racism, claiming classism, and claiming simply that we do not think that Parkdale, the school we'd be moving to is good enough. None of these are right.
On those first two points -- the area which is proposed to move over is the most racially diverse in the school. It also houses a high concentration of rentals (my family included). For those of us who live right on Roncesvalles Ave, PPS is over 1km away. Most of us have very small children and have to cart an entire group back and forth each day, so that "short" 1km walk becomes a cumbersome trek. Nevermind during a snow storm.
As for the school itself -- Parkdale is a lovely school attached to a community centre swimming pool and it has suffered greatly. It has wonderful programs but it is just too far for my family. It also currently does not have a daycare for preschoolers (Garden does) nor does it currently have an after school program for kids under the age of six (Garden does).
My family is currently on a wait list for subsidy for Garden (our son goes full time and until our subsidy comes in, every dollar is stretched) for both our 16-month-old who will start next September and our nearly four year old who needs the after school program once JK starts. If we lose our subsidy spaces in line, or cannot have after school care, what happens to our jobs? I'm trying to build my own business, and unless I can do that child-free, I'm not sure how I will succeed. My husband works overnights, five nights a week and that doesn't look to be changing any time soon.
Last year, when we were forced to move out of our family rental that we'd been in for six years, we searched high and low and fought to find a place within our community. We never once thought it was because any other community was "bad," but rather that our community was just that good.
We are a different family than some of the ones attending Garden, but we've never been made to feel unwelcome. In fact, it's been quite the opposite. Our little school, full of many different ethnicities and races, parents who are rich and not-so-rich, gay and straight parents: we are the village that's raising our kids. We support each other, we care for each other and most importantly, we see the value in our small, shared community.
This is why we're fighting to keep our Garden united. We worry that this is a part of a trend removing community from schools and creating mass buildings where children must be bussed. We worry that having our kids grow up in this beautiful city means they can't still experience small-town life. And I worry that we will not be able to afford what we need in order to maintain our jobs and sustain our families.
Although many people may not see it this way, this has nothing to do with any other school, but has everything to do with ours. It's part of our homes, our lives and our livelihoods and without it, I'm not sure where we would be.
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