Thank you to all of those who completed the proposed council budget survey. We received 62 completed surveys in total. The School Council received a few comments and as promised we tried to address that feedback before the School Council meeting on Monday, January 16th, 2017. Please see our answers below. Don’t forget to scroll all the way down to the bottom to learn more about council, class sizes, and the third-floor room dividers and storage. If you have any additional comments or questions regarding the budget survey, please email email@example.com.
The original proposed council budget had allocated $200 per class for supports for a total of $2,600. During the Monday, January 16th council meeting, Kyle advised that the teachers had met and came to a consensus to ask that council provide classroom supports by teacher instead of by class. This resulted in this budget line item going up slightly. At the meeting, it was approved by vote to give 15 teachers classroom support funds: JK/SK x 2, Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3, Grade 4/5, Grade 5/6, Grade 7/8, French, Gym, Library, Armaity, Spec. Ed, Home School x 2. Total 15 teachers x $200 = $3,000.
Thank you to those who asked about financial processes. The School Council issues our donation to the school. The teachers then provide receipts for their classroom support purchases to the school administration and are reimbursed. This keeps all financial records transparent and clear.
If a specific program requires greater financial support, then anyone in the Equinox community is more than welcome to approach the School Council. We are always open to supporting new initiatives.
Both Roden and Equinox students receive snacks and have access to the morning Breakfast Program. The snacks are slightly different between the schools because the Equinox’s community has specific food preferences such as no gluten, dairy or eggs. This means Equinox’s snacks are fruits and veggies. Our schools do receive grants for this program; however, we are still required to raise additional funds from users and the community The additional money being donated by both Roden and Equinox School Councils is to improve the quality of that food so there are healthier options for our students. According to TDSB…
“Learning and enjoying healthy food gives students the tools to make healthy choices. Through nutrition programs, students are more likely to develop healthy life long eating habits, which combat childhood obesity and chronic diseases. Student Nutrition Programs improve learning outcomes, create healthy school environments and address hunger issues in a non-stigmatizing way. Good nutrition is an asset for all students and is part of our school’s plan to support student success.”
Historically several parent volunteers have worked with our professional lice check services to keep these costs low. If you are interested in volunteering to do lice checks, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To encourage different grades to work and learn together outside the classroom, our multi-teacher led production was intentionally expanded to include students in grades 4 to 8. As stated above, the School Council issues our donation to the school. The teachers then provide receipts for their purchases to the school administration and are reimbursed. This keeps all financial records transparent and clear.
Thank you to the parents who expressed interest in learning more about how to volunteer to support the development of this year’s production. It takes a lot of work by our community to make this great event happen. The School Council will make sure we post more about those volunteer opportunities as they become available.
The three professional level cultural performances compliment the school curriculum and are enjoyed by both Roden and Equinox students. They provide a great opportunity to expand on the overall student experience.
The School Council understands that the Equinox community is both talented and skilled and would like to volunteer their services to further student cultural engagement. In January, the School Council Parent Engagement Committee will be starting to develop an Equinox Volunteer Skills Reference Guide. This guide will give our community a better understanding of what amazing talent we have readily available to volunteer their services. When that notice goes out in January, please be sure to reply to it and list all the skills and talents you wish to volunteer to our Equinox community.
RECESS REVIVAL CART
The outdoor recess supplies are currently being made available daily, weather permitting, for all students to access. It includes a variety of balls, skipping ropes, frisbees and more. Please remind your children that they can access these supplies during recess, but must return any borrowed items before going back to class.
The School Council this year is in the process of getting our books in order. In the past, including this fall, funds raised by our community didn’t always indicate the purpose they were raised for. Also due to a lack of parent volunteers in the 2015-2016 school year, Equinox did not have a formal council to manage its operations as per the Ontario Ministry of Education (OME) guidelines. Our Principal was kind enough last year to step-up as a caretaker for some of council’s activities. These two things have caused a pool of unallocated money to accumulate over the years with the School Council.
According to the OME, School Councils must clearly state what they are raising funds for whenever raising money. Furthermore, that money should be spent the same year it was raised or by the next year as this supports the fundraising efforts for those currently enrolled in the school. Money may only be moved forward from year to year for larger marked projects.
This recent budget survey was developed by the School Council to address this pool of unallocated funds. The proposed budget was created using past School Council budgets as a guide and by asking our teachers and school administration what they need. If this proposed budget is approved, our School Council will be one step closer to getting our accounts up to date. As mentioned in the survey, even if everything in this budget is approved, there is still approx. $4,000 left of funds that need to be allocated this school year. In addition, there are more fund raising initiatives planned for this year; however, all of those up coming activities will clearly state the purpose of their fund raising as per OME regulations. This will eliminate future debate for School Council fund distribution. It will also make it transparent to our community what they are donating their money too.
The School Council receives only a few hundred dollars from the OME to cover its administrative supplies, like paper, tape, etc. along with a few grants for parent engagement activities with very strict guidelines. In general, the School Council must each year raise a majority of its funds through fund raising if it wishes to support additional educational enrichment for its school. Based on these realities, the School Council cannot guarantee annual funding to any one project because it does not have a confirmed annual budget.
Furthermore, our school is in constant flux with new students, parents, teachers, admin and even our very own council. This means the community’s goals may change as our school evolves. Each school year the School Council and the overall community must determine what fund raising activities they need to pursue to fund the projects they want to support.
Anyone, including students, parents, teachers, and staff in the Equinox community are always more than welcome to approach the School Council to discuss new initiatives. Once those proposed needs and wants are identified and agreed upon we can work together to tailor our fund raising efforts to support those specific goals.
A few weeks ago our School Council representatives had a meeting with our Principal, Trustee and Superintendent about Equinox’s increased middle grade class sizes. As some of you know, our middle grade classes were merged from three classes down to two classes this year resulting in over 30 students per class. At this meeting, the School Council presented our online petition with over 100 signatures to reduce those middle grade class sizes as soon as possible. Our request was denied by TDSB. Below is an explanation of how this class size increase occurred and what is going to happen in the future.
The recent class size increase happened this year due to new TDSB procedures. TDSB strives to treat all of its schools equally and equitably. Many schools besides Equinox have classes over 30 students. This is not ideal, but an unfortunate reality of TDSB budget constraints. As an alternative school, Equinox, is an optional attendance school. Starting last year, TDSB froze all optional attendance schools’ enrolment numbers so that they could reduce overall student movement between their schools and better assess and allocate resources.
TDSB requires that all of its schools submit their current enrolment numbers to them each year by January. Here comes the important part, with alternative school numbers being frozen, our Principal was only allowed to accept new students to Equinox if he knew a current enrolled student was leaving. In that situation only, could our Principal designate that placement on the enrolment list he submitted to TDSB in January towards a new student off the wait list. That meant if a student decided to leave our school after those enrolment numbers were submitted to TDSB in January, then that desk had to remain empty for the up coming school year.
TDSB last year did do not take into account Equinox’s wait list of over 170 students in that process. This 2016-2017 school year, only 25 news students were accepted at Equinox that included mostly JK’s.
Based on that process, TDSB decided to merge our middle grades from three to two classes increasing the overall number of students per each class.
Here comes the good news. This year TDSB has agreed that Equinox may follow a new process for the 2017-2018 school year enrolment numbers. We will be able to count applicants from our wait list as firm numbers to supplement our current enrolment. This will help Equinox increase and maintain our enrolment numbers in the next school year. However, like all other optional schools, our lists will be frozen after those enrolment numbers are submitted to TDSB. If a student leaves Equinox after that information has been confirmed with TDSB, then that spot will remain empty. If there is enough movement in different grades, it could result in the collapsing of three classes into two again to maximize staff allocations across the entire school board.
If you are a parent considering moving your student from Equinox, it is imperative that you inform our Principal as soon as possible before the end of January 2017. With over 170 students on our long wait list, it would be a shame to have a seat left empty at Equinox.
SCHOOL CLASSROOM DIVIDERS & STORAGE
During the same meeting with the Principal, Trustee and Superintendent mentioned above, the School Council representatives raised the issue of the lack of classroom walls and storage space. TDSB are clearly aware of these concerns and are working towards addressing them. Until TDSB comes back to our School Council with possible solutions, we are on hold. Due to current TDSB regulations, processes and existing third-party contracts with trade unions, our community is not able to address these issues ourselves.
Once TDSB provides the School Council more information on possible solutions, we can then determine at that time if any fund raising efforts are required or not to fund them.
Again, as outlined on the budget survey, TDSB confirmed the third floor room dividers produced by parents last year did not meet their required processes, standards and union contracts. The dividers will not be allowed to be installed. TDSB did agree to explore ways to save the artwork panels and installing them elsewhere in the school. The existing School Council third floor mural funds of $1,235 are currently on hold until the costs (if any) for the panel artwork installation are determined.