(Editor’s Note: This is a copy of a letter sent to Thames Valley District School Board trustee Ruth Tisdale.)
Dear Ms. Tisdale,
I am writing to stress my concern over the school situation in my area of Manor and Highland Park. As you are aware, the school, of the same name, has been closed and our children are now being bused to Woodland Heights and Kensal Park public schools. The land, I understand, is now slated to be turned into even more residential housing, which means even more children in the neighbourhood requiring busing out of our community.
This morning I was informed by the principal at Kensal Park that my son will enter Grade 4 in a portable classroom, one of 10 at Kensal Park. These portables are in deplorable condition, even for portables. The Plexiglass windows are so old they are no longer transparent and the single window per portable is often covered by drapes to hide the ugliness of them, leaving the children with only florescent lighting.
Portables are made from chip-board that leaches toxic chemicals. There are no washroom facilities making it necessary for the children to have to get into their winter coats and boots to go to the washroom and hike across the schoolyard in winter. Not only is this a ridiculous inconvenience, it is disruptive to the class.
Kensal Park is crammed to the rafters with students. It is so desperately underfunded that they must hold fundraising activities all year long, including a so-called fun-fair that costs more than $10 per child to participate for a few bounces on an inflatable apparatus and a hot dog. Poorer neighbourhoods, like this part of London, cannot afford to supplement the money not being delivered by the province and the school board.
What is especially disturbing, is the fact that University Heights, a school with only two portables, had two brand new classrooms added last year and the portables removed. There is a clear message being sent by Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) and a slap in the face for those of us who, not only have had their community’s school stolen from them, but have to have their children stuffed into ancient and dirty portable classrooms because of our neighbourhood’s general economic situation. This is entirely unacceptable.
I am disheartened and frustrated with the entire TVDSB and the city’s council for their abandonment of fundamental principles of community life and well-being. I am angry that my young son must sit in a dirty portable with no outside view and stale air for an entire year while richer neighbourhoods are pandered to with brand new additions to their schools.
Manor and Highland Park Public School is still standing. The land is still a playground. We need our school. Once it is gone there is nowhere else in this neighbourhood to build a new one when your short-sightedness leaves us with a new generation and more students requiring busing to even more distant portable classrooms.
We often hear politicians say, Ontarians want lower taxes. Yes, but not at the expense of education and our children’s welfare. Not while corporations are getting record tax breaks while failing to invest in new jobs. Not while a corrupt Ontario government squanders tax dollars in a power-plant shell game.
I demand a change. I demand better for our children. I demand you listen to constituents’ concerns — really listen — and begin rebuilding our education infrastructure.
If you cannot, there are others who can. The next election is not too far off.
Menno Meijer, London