The lunch bell rings, and students around the school prepare for the start of period 4.  Some are packing their lunches back into their bags, and others are running to a test or lecture they have next period.  Still others are frantically trying to print off their assignments in the library.

Students are eager to take full advantage of their time during the lunch hour, often opting to visit the library for a quiet place to work.

Two particular groups of students however, simply carried on what they were doing – discussing and analysing a complicated physics lab.

Unfortunately, their efforts were prematurely terminated.  A few minutes later, a teacher librarian came and asked the group to leave.  Fearing the boisterous and overly-festive atmosphere in the cafeteria, they begged to be allowed to stay this rare quiet area to continue their work.  But the librarian, apologetically  told them that sadly, this would not be possible.

Curious, The Reckoner decided to sit down with the administration and inquire as to why the library, a quiet, cool oasis in the otherwise scorching desert/jungle/zoo of aural distractions and chaos, was being closed to students on spares.

Mr. Sharp, one of Garneau’s vice-principals, gives us his knowledge of the situation, as well as some other details about Garneau’s administration.

Q: Why aren’t students being allowed into the library when they aren’t on spare?

A: Okay.  The reason that we’re not using the library for students on spare is that the people who have been allocated to the library, are teacher librarians, and their function is to work with classes as a teacher librarian.  We do not have sufficient numbers allocated to the library for us to open the library and have someone available to supervise students on spares.  The primary reason behind that was that our guidance-library allocation from the board was cut last year for this year, so we have less people working the library than we did last year. But both spares and classes are going to be there, since we now have 10 periods instead of 8 over the year.  One of the things that students have mentioned to me is as a problem is that they can’t get in to print stuff.  You know, their printers at home are out of ink or don’t work and they have their print quota and they’re having a hard time getting in.  So we are investigating what the cost and logistics would be of bringing a standalone into the cafeteria so that students can log in and print what they need to, and that’s something we’re trying to fix.  So we’re trying to do that, I mean, everybody understands that it’s a pain that there’s no place for quiet study.  There’s just not much in the current constraints that we can do about it.

Q: What is the current situation in the library – how many staff do we have in there?

A: Oh, you know, I don’t know off the top of my head but at least one person in every period, but, now I’m not even one hundred percent sure of that – there might be one period where we don’t have anybody allocated.  That’s a question I’ll have to get back to you on because without my computer and schedule, I can’t tell you offhand.  It’s less than what it was last year, and that’s the problem.

Q: Do you know why the guidance funding was cut for our school?

A: It all has to do with funding from the ministry, and it then it trickles down to the board level.  As you know from everything else that’s going on in the news, the whole funding issue for the government is a serious one.  So, everything has a trickle-down effect, and at the board, they sit and they look at the staffing, and there’s some areas they have to play with, and I think that the grey areas they had to play with are drying up.

Q: Do you think that this will have a huge impact on the students?

A: You will have seen more repercussions for that than I have.  Because I see the students in here – some are working, some are playing – you can look around now and see that some of the students have their computers out. Some are gaming, some are working.  Some of them are playing cards.  If you are the type of student who requires a quiet studying area, it is problematic.  Lots of people  study with noise, and this seems to be doing alright.  So, I have not had a whole bunch of people come up to me and say, ‘we do not have a place to study’.

Q: On that note, for students that do need that quiet space, what do you recommend for them?

A: I wish I had a recommendation.  I mean, it’s something we talked about as an administrative team, and we don’t have a solution.  Students are not allowed to be anywhere in the school unsupervised.  So we can’t legally open a room and say, ‘this is the quiet study room’ without having somebody sit in it.  Well, the teachers can’t be required to do that under their contract.  And we have five administrators, one of whom is already in here, so there’s one day a week where our regular jobs aren’t getting done, because we’re in here, supervising.  We can’t spare another one to supervise quiet study.  It is perhaps just one of the consequences of overcrowding that we can’t fix at this point in time.  There are legal ramifications to everything.  The board can’t say you can open a room and have nobody in it – it’s never going to happen.  It’s like how every club has to have a supervisor, a staff advisor with them when they meet.  That’s the real deal.  That’s what regulations say.  Unless you can find a teacher on your spare who’s willing to have you sit in their classroom and have you work quietly there…and let’s face it, there’s an awkward political environment for that.

Q: Do you think that this problem will ever get fixed?

A: Oh get my crystal ball and see what’s happening in the future?  I can’t tell you.  We are on the board’s list for additional facilities and expansion – we’re on the ministry’s list.  When is that going to happen?  If I could predict that, I’d go buy a lottery ticket tonight, because I’d know the winning numbers!  Who knows! It could be years!  We had a serious overcrowding problem, we have fixed a lot of those issues, like going to the 5-schedule day (more science classes are in science classrooms, we don’t have to double up gym classes, we can do extra foods classes), and that’s solved a lot of the problems.
Quiet study area…. I don’t know how we’re going to solve that one in the current situation, and given the fact that the government has said they have no money, I can’t see them doing a lot to invest in Garneau at this point in time, because we’ve solved most of the problems.  I don’t know for sure… but if the only problem he have is that we don’t have a quiet study room, we’re a lot lower on the priority list than an area like the kindergarten school they just built with 16 kindergarten classrooms in it.  That’s a huge priority for the board, and that’s a lot of money.
It’s just down the road at Thorncliffe I think.  They built it because the ministry has expanded full day kindergarten, with no place to put them. So, that’s a problem.  Right now, I think from the stats I read, for the Thorncliffe area, the largest concentration of our population is children under 5.  Think about what that means for the education system.  It means that they’re in kindergarten, and there’s this big bubble of kids that’s going to come into the elementary school system, and then there’s going the be a big bubble coming into the high school system.
So right now, they [the ministry] is trying to deal with them at the elementary level.  What’s going to happen when they get to Valley Park? Valley park is already super crowded!  So the board has a planning team, and they look at stats and demographics, and see where things are happening, where the demand is.  Ultimately, I think that everyone expects that Garneau is going to be a busy school.  It’s not one of the ones that people are looking at closing because there’s so much extra space. How they deal with that will be up to board planners over time. So, will there be a long term solution? Probably – they have to do something, right? And they have people looking into it – it’s not like they don’t know it’s coming.  But will it happen next year?  I suspect you and I will be in the same boat.  I suspect you and I will both be out of this school before the solution occurs. Unless somebody has a brilliant idea. If somebody has a brilliant idea on how we can legally do it, the admin team would be open to hear it.

Q: So students can help with this too?

A: I don’t care where the solution comes from.  If somebody has an idea where we can legally  have a quiet work room, I have no problem with that – I’d be happy.  We know it’s a problem for some students to find a quiet place to study.  We just don’t have a legal option that we can pursue. We don’t have staff to put in it, and we can’t have you in an area un-staffed. And we can’t leave students in the halls to study, even if we know that students are sitting and studying.  Because I can’t throw X out, and leave Y there, even if I know that Y’s studying and X is going to fool around. I can’t do that. It’s inequitable.  People would be yelling “it’s not fair” and they’d be right. We strive not to do things that are not fair. So, it’s a Catch-22.