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Program saves school

The school was under threat; with less than 100 students fromkindergarten to Grade 8, it was too small and everyone expected theboard to close it.

The school was under threat; with less than 100 students from kindergarten to Grade 8, it was too small and everyone expected the board to close it.

But today, the number of kids at Scarborough’s Our Lady of Wisdom has almost quadrupled — to 370 — and the Catholic elementary school draws students from Ajax, Richmond Hill and other GTA cities.

In fact, it is now over-enrolled, has three portables and there was talk, at one point, of starting a wait list.

It’s not often schools are saved from the chopping block. And as enrolment drops in most boards across the province, it is small schools being shut down, says a recent report from People for Education.

So how did Our Lady of Wisdom survive? Thank the parents.

Janice Graham-Foscarini was at a school meeting a decade ago, where a number of mothers were returning to work from maternity leave and asked for a daycare at the school, in the Ellesmere Road-Warden Avenue area. The principal said no because of the many rules and regulations.

“I thought to myself, why daycare? Why not an enriched after-4 program?” said Graham-Foscarini.

She and another mom sent out a survey to parents and started programming that fall.

The parents began a non-profit corporation, called ACE (after-care enrichment), which leases the space from the school and uses classrooms and even the teachers’ lounge to 6 p.m. every day. Students can take two classes after school, offered in two separate, one-hour periods. Families using it every day for both periods are charged a maximum of $60 a week.

Graham-Foscarini, whose children are now grown, said the board backed off on closing Our Lady after the program was in its second year, when enrolment jumped 30 per cent.

 
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