Toronto school boards launch pilot to register Syrian children housed in hotels
'For us, these children are living in the hotel and they need to be educated,' says the TDSB's Karen Falconer
Toronto's public and Catholic school boards are helping Syrian children get to school by waiving some normal regulations so it doesn't matter that the kids are currently living in hotels.
"Normally in Ontario we attend the school that is associated with our permanent address. But for us, these children are living in the hotel and they need to be educated," Karen Falconer, of the Toronto District School Board, told CBC News.
"We don't really care what school they end up in. We care that they know that school is a welcoming place for them."
Many refugees already in Ontario are currently being housed in hotels. Because registering in school requires a permanent address, it could be several months before some Syrian children attend regular classes.
That along with the fact that many refugee children have been out of formal schooling for many months or years already makes the need for the project even more urgent, Falconer said.
"We wanted to do what we could," Falconer said. In this case, "getting them ready to attend their neighbourhood school."
The feeling of belonging in school
During the pilot project, children living at the Toronto Plaza Hotel, in the Wilson Road and Highway 401 area, can register to attend school during morning periods and get a feel for what they can expect when they begin attending full-time.
Falconer said it's unclear how much the project will cost, but that some funding will likely come from the province. The amount will change based on how many children ultimately take advantage of the program and the number of resources such as teachers and school buses that are needed to support it.
"What the province has told us is please do what you have to do in order to welcome the students in to your schools and then we will deal with the costs," Falconer said.
Already, one hundred such students are already set to begin the program, and the school boards hope all 260 children at the hotel will soon be enrolled.
"When you haven't been in school for two, and three, and four years it's really important to give children a feeling of trust and belonging in a school environment," Falconer said.