Image Source | Shutterstock.com
After over 26 years serving Hillcrest Village, the Josie Stern Team has seen a continued surge of homebuyers in Hillcrest Village, most with young children, who are moving in and in some cases, buying back family homes from an older relative. There is a gentrification of St. Clair West happening as we welcome new restaurants, hair salons, speciality boutiques and butchers and yes, even condos! Residents relish farmer’s markets and gallery openings, martial arts, spinning and yoga offerings, splash pads and all manner of art classes at Wychwood Barns. Cedarvale Ravine and park, Phil White arena, tree lined streets, proximity to priority streetcar lines, subway stations, great walkable shopping and the Allan Expressway– all of these assets are driving up the popularity of Hillcrest Village as families move in and move up in a thriving, midtown neighbourhood.
Humewood Community School is the hub of the community north of St. Clair. We have seen a surge in property prices and some of it can be attributed to the offering of the French immersion program and the dynamic happenings at Humewood School.
We recently spoke with Christine Spencer, Fund-Raising Chair on Humewood’s Parent Council about Humewood and its place in Hillcrest Village and how it is a leader in the TDSB on being a Community Hub, something the board hopes to create more of across its spectrum of schools.
Christine herself went to Humewood and Arlington Public school, left the area and returned as a parent. It is not uncommon for parents to choose to purchase a home in an area with a school that enjoys a good academic reputation and/or offers French Immersion. Local brokerage RedPin recently published a report which says that in Toronto, people will pay 36% more for a home that is in a ‘good school’ catchment. The demand for the Humewood School is so great that for the upcoming 2015/16 year, Humewood must add additional classrooms to accommodate the growing student population in the community. Many of the classrooms are bursting at the seams as the school works to understand how the growing community demographic will impact the school going forward. Unlike other city schools, Humewood is not at risk of closing, but rather, needs to understand how to continue to serve its growing body of students and the community at large, even better than it does now.
Humewood serves over 520 children from diverse cultural backgrounds and is a place where parent council members represent all demographics of the neighbourhood. Everyone has an equal platform to share ideas and concerns. The School opens at 7:30 a.m. and has a Day Care and a Before/After Care Program making it easier for many families to have one stop to make before and after work.
The school’s theme is 'Building our Community' and as both Robynn Rutherford, Chair of Parent Council and Christine testify, they continue to develop partnerships with both families, community members and local businesses. Old models for financing education are stretched beyond their capacity and so TDSB searches for new ones - collecting rental fees, aligning with developers and relying on Community leaders like Christine to help drive revenue back into the schools.
With the goal of bringing parents, teachers and other community members together in support of building this community hub, Parent Council has been developing plans to renovate the staff room into a multi-function space with a new updated kitchen, able to facilitate cooking and nutrition classes.
Echoing the TDSB Healthy Learning, Health Living nutrition programs, Christine recognizes that Humewood – especially with a new staffroom/kitchen – would be well positioned to deliver exciting programs around good nutrition and affordable healthy food choices. Humewood also runs fantastic seasonal fairs, electronics recycling days and much more for local families to participate in.
In order to create better facilities for track and field, soccer and baseball and to improve the playground and green spaces for both younger and older kids, funding is needed. As Fund-Raising Chair, Christine knows the school must adapt quickly to cover those gaps. With her business background, making sure school council members connect in a more meaningful way with the business community is a priority for Christine and the rest of Parent Council. They need financial support to accomplish these goals. Council members reach out not only for donations but also to bring in local experts to hold seminars of community interest.
Parent Council Chair, Robin Rutherford, speaks regularly with other parent councils and schools to discuss what works for them and to compare fundraising successes. The famous Salads served at the annual Fall Fair are always a big hit. So this year, Humewood Parent Council will be creating and selling a cookbook of all the favourites, simply called “The Salad Bar.” Community Nutritionists are pitching in to add chapters on gluten free cooking, healthy snacks and more. A recent experiment in ‘Spirit Wear’ led to the offering of school toques for the first time – they were sold out in two days! More “Spirit Wear” is on its way for Fall 2015/2016 to kick-off the new school year.
The First Annual Winter Hockey Classic was held this past March with the ENTIRE school in attendance at Phil White Arena. Parents and teachers played the school teams, with cheerleading squads and screaming fans in tow! Many parents took the day off work to participate and attend while community sponsors provided treats. They day was a huge success and is planned again for next spring serving as one of Humewood’s many successful community building events.
The event demonstrates that such endeavours help build a sense of pride and belonging. Spencer says “It was the epitome of what a community school should look like in a healthy community setting.”
Both Christine and Robynn feel lucky to be part of a wonderful parent administrative team who are open to new ideas and looking to imbue fresh energy into the school and the community at large. They believe if you give kids a great, safe and happy environment to grow and learn in, they will become resilient, responsible and active community members.
Spencer asserts that Humewood Community School is well positioned to serve as the “Heart of the Community”.