North Toronto elementary school’s enrollment declining
Parents vow to defeat closure recommendation
By Kris Scheuer
(Written for Town Crier April 22.)
Briar Hill parent Carmen Moscarello isn’t ready to say goodbye to her child’s elementary school.
But if a report on the future of three schools in the Dufferin and Eglinton area is adopted by the Toronto school board in June, she may have to.
An Accommodation Review Committee report is recommending closing Briar Hill, expanding nearby Fairbank Middle School from JK to grade 8, and keeping West Prep Junior School as JK to grade 6.
Briar Hill is facing closure because of declining enrollment at the JK to grade 5 school. The 1927-built facility has a capacity for 265 students but only about 147 kids are enrolled there.
An attached minority report by committee members and Briar Hill parents Julie McFayden and Paul Dover doesn’t support closing the school.
Board staff will make its own recommendations and the issue will go for a board vote at the end of June, but in the meantime, parents like Moscarello are fuming at the mere suggestion of closure.
“We’d like a kindergarten to grade 6 school again like we had and a daycare,” said Moscarello, whose eldest son Matthew is a Briar Hill graduate. Her younger son Nathan is in grade 2.
If Briar Hill is closed, students would be absorbed into West Prep at Ridge Hill Drive or Fairbank MS, south of Eglinton Avenue. The walk to and from school is a big concerns for parents.
“Many families don’t have cars,” said Moscarello. “I don’t want our students to have to walk that distance to either school. The students who attend Briar Hill are too close to get bussing services.”
Now that the report is in, school trustee Howard Goodman is forwarding his own comments to Director of Education Chris Spence requesting that another option be considered: redeveloping the site and keeping Briar Hill open from kindergarten to grade 3.
“We should be able to have a mixed-use building at this site with a school at the bottom,” Goodman said. “We could do that for about the same money as adding classrooms at Fairbank Middle School and West Prep.”
Briar Hill Principal Mary Whittaker said when the school closed its daycare program a number of years ago, it stopped drawing in students.
“I think our young families who needed daycare went to schools where they could get it,” she said.
She has mixed feelings about the potential closure of Briar Hill, where she has already lost teachers due to declining enrollment.
“It’s always sad to see a school close but the quality of education is what’s important for these children and if we can deliver a better quality of education in a larger setting than that’s the way I think we need to go,” she said.
—With files from Karolyn Coorsh