Committee Members: Lillian Ugrin, Diane DaLuz, Deirdre Arbour, Father Frank Carpinelli, Councillor Mark Grimes, Maria Brooks, Brandi Ward and Michelle Nolden-‐Szarka.
St. Leo Catholic School is the oldest Catholic School in Etobicoke. Built in 1926, those of you who attended the SARC pre-‐meeting could see the charm and heritage that we treasure in our actual building. We are well aware that the FCI (Facility Condition Index) of our school is currently at 47.9%. Our parent council, staff and greater school community understand the importance of this SARC and the ultimate goal of accessing Ministry funds to improve the education and school facility for our students. We feel that a close look at St. Leo is necessary and that a proper review will give St. Leo the revitalization and renewal that it so desperately needs while holding onto the history of the building.
1) We believe that we must remain physically and spiritually linked to our Parish – our newly renovated Church! The core of Catholic Education is the bond between Church and School and while it is not always geographically possible it is ideal. Every effort should be made to maintain that geographical proximity. Our school has a very close relationship with our Parish and the parishioners. We offer additional parking and overflow from the Masses and the border that separates the Church and School is so tight that whatever is on the St. Leo School site must be supportive and congruous with the Church. Father Frank who is here with us this evening also firmly believes this land must remain in the Catholic Board.
2) Our greater school community values us as a vital and important part of the tradition and history of the area. We have here our petitions (we also have an electronic petition) of those in our school and our greater community who believe that our school matters and that closing it is NOT an option. Also you will see the results of our online survey asking what changes our parents want to see in the school – all are facility related. Appendix A.
3) We at St. Leo believe very strongly that our declining enrolment and current utilization rate of 54.5% has been directly linked to the lack of attention that we have historically received from the Board. We are excited to say that this is definitely changing and for that we are incredibly grateful – word is getting out in the community that we are a strong and vibrant school. We are aware that the TCDSB has many aging schools and true to our current reputation as positive and proactive we have been working with the Board, the community and the local businesses to improve our school and particularly to initiate a greening project that will begin this summer. Our local public school John English currently has over 800 students (many of them Catholic families )–and is busting at the seams. Please find letters from Catholic families who chose not to attend the school and their reasons for doing so. As you will see the issue is about resources and the state of the building
– particularly since many of these families attend St. Leo as their home Parish. A new or revitalized school (that preserved the heritage of the old building) –would not only entice many of these families back but would make us the go to school for new Catholic families in the area.
4) We believe in working with the Board to boost our enrolment. While we love our small school, we are aware realities of the funding formula and that the resources that we desire will only come with additional students. We are excited to be starting French Immersion in September and are confident that this combined with our new curb appeal will change the tide.
5) We are particularly eager to speak more about our new partnership with Humber College and MOS architects and their interest in using St. Leo and Mimico Adult Centre as subjects in their “situate, design and build” course in their graduate program. As you may or may not be aware, the Mimico Adult Centre is a building currently owned and underutilized by TDSB immediately to the south of the school. The course would provide our school with a pro bono design that would not only create a new building for St. Leo but would also propose a shared community space in the Mimico Adult Centre with the TDSB. This partnership will bring our community together. We will be working with our greater school community and our diligent supporter Councilor Grimes to create this larger, long term vision for the ENTIRE community.
6) I invite everyone to take a drive in South Etobicoke – look at the top ups and infill housing that is going up. Look at the new access to the lake, the Humber trails, the nature that is within walking distance. If we look at the TDSB projections for John English the very strong possibility of new development along the Lakeshore immediately to the South of the school our local public school cannot be the only option for families – John English is over capacity and we have to be the school of choice for Catholic families. The Mimico/New Toronto community is thriving and gentrifying. It is a fantastic place to live. We and particularly Councilor Grimes want St. Leo to be a part of the magic.
7) The TCDSB in a report to the Corporate Affairs, Strategic Planning and Property Committee on January 22, 2015 recommended that St. Luis be consolidated at St. Leo. So lastly and most importantly, while the option to merge St. Leo and St. Luis was put forth as only that at the pre-‐meeting-‐ on behalf of everyone at St. Leo, we do want to very firmly state that if that were the direction this committee chooses to go, we as a community would make it a priority within our Parent Council, staff and students that St. Luis felt that St. Leo was their school. We already share a Parish and as we worship together, we are already a family. We would ensure that the merging was a welcome, friendly and exciting prospect for all with many bonding initiatives that could even precede an actual move. The ultimate goal for all of us here tonight is to find the best possible solution for all of our students!