School boards offer lessons for refugee children without permanent homes
Published Monday, February 8, 2016 11:09PM EST
Two Toronto school boards are offering refugee children an opportunity to keep learning as they wait to receive paperwork that would allow them to formally enrol in the public school system.
In Toronto, children must have a permanent address to enrol in school. That means Syrian refugee children who are living in hotels while they wait for permanent housing can’t officially register in public schools.
But the Toronto District School Board and Toronto Catholic District School Board have joined forces to work around the rule by offering free, volunteer-run classes at two Etobicoke schools.
“We want children to know that we’re interested in their education from the minute they hit our city,” said Karen Falconer, executive superintendent of the TDSB.
The initiative is being run using the help of volunteer and retired teachers at The Elms Junior Middle School and Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School.
The program will run for two hours a day every day, for as long as it’s needed.
The refugees say they’re thankful that their children can keep learning as they get settled in Canada.
“This is the reason why we’re here and I will do all that I can to help my kids to get a good education,” said a Syrian woman whose seven children are using the program.
The school boards say the initiative is also intended to help the students and their families feel at home.
“We wanted to get them ready for school and teach them school is a friendly place and teach families that they can trust our schools,” Falconer said.
More than 100 students attended the program on Monday and she said even more are expected throughout the week.
About 10,000 Syrian refugees are expected to have arrived in Ontario by the end of February.
On Monday, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced that the province will boost funding for resettlement support by $600,000 over the next two years.
With a report from CTV Toronto’s Naomi Parness