Ontario government invests $36M in new Bishop Allen Academy in EtobicokePublished on November 17, 2020
Recently, that proved true for Bishop Allen Academy students, parents and faculty after Premier Doug Ford announced a $36-million Ontario government investment to build a replacement school that would accommodate 1,300 students.
Students, parents and faculty were elated at the news after advocating for years for a new, modern and larger school to replace its 1963 building and 24 portables.
“It’s really exciting to see how the school will be transformed,” said student council president and Grade 12 student Ethan Kwon, 17. “I’ve had a few classes in portables. It’s even better to have classes inside the building. It will be great to have the extra space.”
Student council vice-president Mikaela Soliman, 17, agreed: “I think it’s amazing. When I heard it finally happened, I was so excited for future students. Bishop Allen is a great school, but it’s small.”
Etobicoke-Lakeshore MPP Christine Hogarth worked with parents and Toronto Catholic District School Board Ward 4 Parkdale—High Park, Etobicoke-Lakeshore trustee Teresa Lubinski on their advocacy for a new school.
“These are not just investments in bricks and mortar – our government is investing in the future of our children by creating a better learning environment,” Hogarth said in a statement. “By building and upgrading Bishop Allen Academy, we are providing students with access to modern classroom settings and the latest technology, which will lead to new opportunities and lifelong success.”
Ford called schools “the heart of our communities” in a statement and said that “when we invest in school, we are investing in our future, and through construction projects like these, we will also be contributing to the long-term recovery of our province.”
The premier’s Oct. 30 announcement at the Royal York Road school included an additional $26.4 million for a new Catholic secondary school in central Etobicoke, where for years Michael Power-St. Joseph Catholic Secondary School (TCDSB) has been the sole Catholic high school.
Colette Kay, Bishop Allen’s past parent council chairperson, said Bishop Allen “got left behind.”
“I was hearing some Grade 9 students had all four classes in a portable,” Kay said. “Their introduction to high school was in a portable. My daughter had a class in the cafeteria.”
Maria Borreca, Bishop Allen’s Catholic School Parent Council chairperson, called Bishop Allen “a family.”
She acknowledged the support of parents, parents of feeder schools, the principal and vice-principal and the assistance of trustee Lubinski in a “phenomenal” and successful letter-writing campaign to Ontario government officials to lobby for a new school.
“What’s important is that the kids get a new school,” she said. “The kids are the future. This is one school that needed the attention.”
Lubinski said “it feels good to be heard,” adding Bishop Allen students called her asking for a new school.
“It’s a tribute to the school that has an academic reputation and a tribute to its welcoming community of students and staff,” Lubinski said. “I still had a few calls this fall from parents begging me for their kids to get into this school.”
Bishop Allen Academy principal Lisa Tomeczek lauded Ford, Education Minister Stephen Lecce and Hogarth for the investment.
“I think the fact they wanted to support Etobicoke is a testament to the amazing community we have here,” she said. “Our kids are absolutely phenomenal. … The advocacy work was so important, as was having the support of the team at the board. Everything we do at this school is a team effort between students, staff, the team at the board and parents.”
TCDSB Area 2 superintendent Joe Bria said the news is a welcome lift during a difficult year: “In the midst of a pandemic, we have a silver lining: a new Bishop Allen Academy in Etobicoke.”