Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute is many things.  It is diverse and filled with opportunities, and it is the reason I force myself out of bed at 6 AM every morning.

Our school is also crowded — extremely, extremely crowded. In fact, MGCI is approximately 450 students over capacity and is notorious for being one of the most densely populated schools in the Toronto District School Board.

We are at the point that more students eat lunch on the floors and in the stairwells than in the cafeteria. I am short, and this means that walking to class during the five precious minutes in between periods is comparable to walking across a battlefield, praying that I won’t get caught in the crossfire. I’m just a small girl in Grade 9 trying to get to class without being squashed like a bug.  Is that too much to ask for?

This issue is something that has become accepted within the school, “oh, that’s just Garneau.” I feel that it is important that students new to the school understand how they are receiving the short end of the stick.

The main problem is that being overcrowded, our school is not properly equipped to meet the needs of the entire student population. Our school gymnasium was remodelled in 1987 to properly service approximately 1430 students. Yet today, our school is bursting at the seams, meaning the gym facilities are insufficient to be used by everyone.  In fact, our athletic field is filled with portables, meaning that students must walk to a nearby community field for gym classes. 

A working group was established to discuss possible solutions to the overpopulation problem. They proposed the current time table model in favour of the four period model that was being followed at the time. The time table change is the reason that every single student at our school has a spare period; however, in most high schools, students do not have a spare period until Grade 12. The spare periods mean that a certain percentage of the student population is out of the classrooms during any given period, ensuring that enough science classrooms will be available to support the number of sections being run.  If you’re in Grade 9, like me, and are wondering why our school starts at the ungodly hour of 8:15 AM, thank overpopulation–the new five period schedule extended the old school day by a total of 75 minutes.

A large contributing factor to Garneau being over capacity is the TOPS program to which it is host. TOPS draws in approximately 250 students from all across the GTA, a significant addition to the population. Indeed, efforts to move TOPS were made in 2011 to no avail. Students protested outside the Toronto District School Board head offices, demanding the relocation of the TOPS program to another school. The motion for a Program Area Review Team (PART) was put forward in order to address overcrowding issues locally, but due to resistance from the TDSB it was not formed, and TOPS was left to be hosted at MGCI. This lead to many deserving applicants being rejected from the TOPS program due to lack of space. In response to this, another TOPS program was opened up at Bloor Collegiate Institute in 2009. However, the new program did nothing to alleviate over crowding at MGCI.

Students, parents and teachers have been forced to accept overpopulation as a daily part of life, and the issue has been abandoned. However, overcrowding at MGCI is a serious problem which must be addressed in order to better facilitate the learning of every one of its students. Marc Garneau is many things, but overcrowded should not be one of them.

Until the issue is revisited–if it is at all–I guess we’re all just stuck being packed like a sad, forgotten bunch of sardines.