The TCDSB’s backlog for repairs is bad news for aging schools

 

The Toronto Catholic District School Board’s $1.3 billion backlog for repairs is affecting maintenance of aging schools, said Deborah Friesen, executive superintendent of facilities services for the TCDSB.

Friesen said that although the TCDSB is constantly working to fix damages reported by schools, many factors influence the time that it takes. Damages have to be triaged to prioritize those that relate to the health and safety of students and staff, but this can leave many other things unfixed.

The TCDSB receives around $51 million for repairs and improvements every year, but its billion-dollar backlog, along with the board’s aging schools, is going to result in damages that are not getting repaired fast enough, said Emmy Szekeres Milne, the senior co-ordinator of communications for the board.

Sent from Oles LazoukaA broken radiator is exposed in the boys’ bathroom at Bishop Allen Academy in Etobicoke, Ont. (Courtesy – Oles Lazouka)

Recently, students at Bishop Allen Academy Catholic Secondary School in Etobicoke, Ont., complained of damages throughout their school, such as missing bathroom stall doors, falling ceiling tiles and heating problems throughout the building.

“There has always been issues at BA, at least as long as I have been there, but they seem to be getting worse. We have holes in the walls, broken bathroom stall doors and locks, and the heating’s always messed up… Last week my history class had to be moved to the cafeteria because it was so hot we couldn’t go into our class,” Bella Iacovone, a Grade 11 student at Bishop Allen, said in an interview.

Bishop Allen has been one of the top-rated Catholic high schools in Etobicoke for years. But recently students have taken to social media to express their concerns about the school’s building structure and facilities.

Sent from Aleksander JaskielewiczA broken stall door lies across the boys’ bathroom floor at Bishop Allen Academy in Etobicoke, Ont.  (Courtesy – Alek J.)

“On the second floor, there’s a washroom with one stall. The door to the stall has fallen off, and it’s just been on the floor for about two years now. Toilets are continually clogged, the walls are covered in graffiti, and we’d be lucky to find soap in any soap dispensers, if the dispensers are there at all,” Alek J., a Bishop Allen student in Grade 12, said in an interview.

Freisen said that broken heating systems in schools are one of their top priorities. In the case of Bishop Allen’s missing bathroom stall door, the TCDSB is still waiting on parts to be delivered in order to replace it.

Students have been describing how waiting for these damages to be repaired has been affecting them.

“It’s really hard to feel comfortable or safe at Bishop Allen. It’s so crowded and there’s always something wrong with something,” said Iacovone.

Alek J. believes that students “should first feel safe in our school environment before being ready to learn.”

Friesen said that student safety is always their primary concern, but some repairs, such as cosmetic ones, are simply not high on their priority list.

These types of maintenance concerns are not solely affecting Bishop Allen Academy and a backlog in deferred maintenance is not isolated to the Catholic board, according to the TCDSB.

Sent from Aleksander 2

Water damage is peeling off the ceiling tiles in a classroom at Bishop Allen Academy, in Etobicoke Ont. (Courtesy – Alek J.)

 

Bob Woodward’s takeaways from the U.S. midterm elections

The Democrat’s victory in the U.S. midterm elections does not mean that people should expect change, said Bob Woodward, an American-Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and author.

As of 4 p.m. on Wednesday the Democratic Party has 222 seats in the House of Representatives, slightly over 50 per cent, during the midterm elections.

“The Democrats now have the House of Representatives. … But it is not a situation that necessarily means change,” said Woodward at an event at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto on Wednesday.

Woodward believes that the law does not make a lot of difference to current U.S. President Donald Trump and that the president has gained more power as time has gone on.

“There is a concentration of power in the presidency which I think Americans don’t fully appreciate and understand,” said Woodward.

He believes that presidents have the power to start wars, and this should not be overlooked.

Andrew Peat, portfolio manager at TD Bank who attended Woodward’s talk, said, “Amidst all the chaos in American politics right now, which can seem entertaining and intriguing, there’s a serious point of view that any sort of miscalculation or misjudgment can lead to escalation, especially war,” said

During the conversation, Woodward also spoke about another important reality of the midterm elections.

“The influence of women is much greater in American politics, thank God. It probably is not fully realized yet but it is going to become more and more realized in coming years,” said Woodward.

These midterm elections have broken records for the number of female candidates and women of colour running, according to Business Insider.

This is the first time Native American, Muslim and Korean-American women have been elected to Congress.  It also had the highest early-voter turnout in a non-presidential election in the United States.

“I hope that this (election) has engaged a base of people that were disengaged or that were apathetic to get on board and get involved. I think we saw a lot of women, and a lot of minorities coming back into play last night and at the end of the day it’s apathy that got us here, so it’s encouraging to see a more engaged base,” said Rhiannon Traill, president and CEO of the Economic Club of Canada in an interview.

Wednesday’s event, which was hosted by Canada 2020, provided Woodward an opportunity to comment on the election and engage in an interview with editor-in-chief of the Globe and Mail, David Walmsley.

Woodward also spoke on his recently published book, Fear: Trump in the White House, where he exposes secrets of the Trump presidency.

Trump has denied the allegations in Woodward’s book.

“The Woodward book is a joke – just another assault against me, in a barrage of assaults, using now disproven unnamed and anonymous sources. Many have already come forward to say the quotes by them, like the book, are fiction. Dems can’t stand losing. I’ll write the real book!,” he said in a tweet on Sept. 10.

The next U.S. presidential election is scheduled for Nov. 3, 2020.

 

Pop-up workouts may be the future of Toronto’s fitness scene

ActifyCity’s unconventional business approach to Toronto’s fitness and wellness scene offers a pop-up community focused workout, that also includes meditation, massages, local vendors and networking opportunities.

“We wanted to create an experience where it didn’t matter where you were from, what you look like, what you do, you could find the space and time where we all come together and share this experience,” said Bryan Clyde Jones, founder of ActifyCity during a phone interview.

The company runs events where people pay up to $120 per ticket for three hours of sweat, mindfulness and opportunities to try or buy local products. Since February, the company has hosted five pop-up events in Toronto.

“Since we don’t have a lot of overhead costs because we don’t own a location, we just pop up when there’s a full moon, that saves a lot of money. Not only that, as the classes get bigger and there’s more exposure and hype, that will generate more sales,” said Clyde Jones during an interview.  He hopes that the implementation of more workouts and treatments will bring in more customers.

ActifyCity’s events follow the moon cycle, occurring only a few times throughout the year. Between events, Clyde Jones is continuing his practice as a yoga instructor and massage therapist.

Their last event, ActifyTO Unlocked, took place in The Attic in downtown Toronto last Wednesday. Those who purchased tickets experienced a warm-up and stretch class, a high-intensity interval training workout, a meditation class and a Reiki massage.

Technology played a unique and very important role during the event. Participants went through the entire evening wearing LED noise isolating headphones.

We wanted to focus this technology to the wellness community because we saw an opportunity,” said Clyde Jones during the event. “We all know the person who comes in late, grunts, does weird noises; all these distractions pull you away from the focus.”

While wearing the headphones, the participant can only hear the music, the instructor and themselves.

“I was a little hesitant about the experience at first, but when I came and put those headphones on for the first time, it was absolutely mind blowing,” said Danny Dulay, a chiropractor and instructor at Barry’s Bootcamp who participated at the event on Wednesday. “It centred me and I was able to focus. It was an experience that I have never had. For me this technology is a game changer.”

ActifyCity makes a point to keep their event surrounded in secrecy. Participants are informed of very little, with the location only being released three hours prior to the start.

Recently Toronto has seen a spike in popularity for clothing and food pop-ups, but this is one of the first fitness companies to use this model.

“It’s different every time, and we don’t tell anyone what’s going on. When you don’t give people that control, it’s kind of terrifying but it builds excitement,” said Clyde Jones at the event. “There’s beauty in the fact that you don’t know what workout you’re going to do, you don’t know where it’s going to be, you don’t know who your instructors are going to be, you don’t know anything.”

“The secret location just makes everything that much more special and fun,” said Dulay during the event.

According to the company, people are drawn to Actify because other fitness companies are not creating a community that people are looking for.

“I don’t like going to gyms because it gets so boring. You go in, you sweat, you leave and you repeat,” said Martha Kryvonis, a student at York University. “I would really love to see more community and wellness-oriented places in the city.”

“The networking is great, Actify is actively seeking to participate with people who are like-minded, people who are also entrepreneurs and tries to build a network,” said Angela Furfaro, a transformation and strength coach who ran the warm-up portion of the event. For me, I’ve been loving to come and connect with the people. I see it growing and growing and every time it is different.”

This way of doing business creates constant growth, because we don’t limit ourselves by saying this is Actify and this is what we do, said Clyde Jones at the event.

The next ActifyTO Unlocked event will be hosted on Nov. 23. ActifyCity also plans to create events that are dog friendly and student oriented.

 

Ryerson University facing backlash after the unveiling of a new plaque

A newly installed plaque acknowledging Egerton Ryerson’s contributions to the Residential School System has caused controversies at Ryerson University in Toronto.

According to the Aboriginal Education Council, the controversy around Egerton Ryerson comes from his belief in different systems of education for white and Aboriginal children.

Members of the Ryerson community have expressed concerns that the plaque is not a sufficient step taken by the university.

After years of activism by faculty, students and Ryerson’s Aboriginal Education Council, the plaque was installed on June 25 next to a statue of Ryerson, the former Chief Superintendent of Education in Upper Canada and the university’s namesake.

“Although Ryerson did not implement or oversee residential schools, he contributed to their blueprint,” said Cyndy Baskin, an Indigenous professor in the School of Social Work at Ryerson University. “The Indian Residential School System has had a devastating impact on Indigenous Peoples,” she said at a news conference discussing indigenous concerns, at Ryerson held at the university on Wednesday.

Residential schools were used to remove and isolate Indigenous children from their families, tradition and cultures in order to assimilate them into white culture, according to Indigenous Foundations at the University of British Colombia.

Since the plaque has been put up, students have expressed their concerns. There is also discussion about removing the statue altogether.

“I don’t know if this plaque is convincing to any of the students on campus that this is a finished story or this is a sufficient action. As a gesture of goodwill I think they should tear this down and rename the university, but that is just the first step and still wouldn’t be sufficient,” said Kevin Taghabon, a masters of journalism student.

Sarena Johnson, an Indigenous storyteller in the department of student affairs, said at the news conference, “I do go past the statue and I find it very problematic, I feel like the name probably won’t be changed and it just makes me feel like the truth and reconciliation work that’s been done is tokenistic and hollow.”

Sarah Dennis, an Indigenous student studying social work, disagreed at the news conference. “There is something within the willingness to go through those acts of tokenism that really is what it’s about for me. Cause I’ll be happy to see the statue come down but I’ll be more happy that folks were willing to do that for us and that is a story that continuously is shared.”

In a statement released by Ryerson University at the news conference, spokesperson for the institution Johanna VanderMaas said they are focused on hiring and welcoming more staff, faculty and students from Indigenous communities.

As of now no decisions have been made on the Egerton Ryerson statue or the renaming of the university, she said.