In case you’ve been wondering why posts on the Bovine have been so sparse lately, one contributing factor may be the editor’s pre-occupation with a controversy closer to home. The Toronto Waldorf School (TWS) has not figured much on the Bovine to date, although the school’s parking lot was, until a few years ago, the meeting place for contact with farm-share members in the city. And although we’ve never mentioned it, many of the Glencolton farm-share or cowshare members have in some way been connected with the school, either as parents or faculty.
Over the last eight years the TWS has been running annual deficits that have accumulated into a mortgage of $2.3 million with annual interest costs of $200,000,which increase the deficit even more, to the point where, for the last three years, auditors have questioned the school’s financial viability. Thus, in an effort to pay off the mortgage and set up an endowment fund, the board of the school is planning to sell land which it views as not essential to the mission of the school.
The land to be sold could be as much as 4.5 acres of five acres which was bought in the 90s and used for the school’s gardening program, and for the Carrville Community Garden (CCG). The CCG is a club which has been gardening the land biodynamically for 11 years now. During this time the school has received awards for its ecological achievements. There used to be a large aerial photo of the campus in which the CCG cultivated land featured prominently on display in the school lobby.
On the same campus as TWS there is a seniors’ residence, Hesperus, which. like the school, was inspired by Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy. Hesperus has recently expanded from 16 apartments to 80. Also on the campus is a Waldorf teacher education institute (the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto) and a Waldorf bookstore. And there’s also the Village Market, an organic farmers market, taking place every Saturday since the fall of 1991, downstairs in the school. Nowhere else in Canada is there such a concentration of anthroposophically inspired work going on.
However, similar campuses exist in Spring Valley, New York, and in Harlemville, New York as well as in many other countries, for example in Jarna Sweden. In Harlemville and Spring Valley, the land ownership is separate from any of the initiatives on the campus (such as Waldorf schools) that take place on the campus. Those Waldorf schools could never sell land. But perhaps the founders in Toronto did not foresee how the campus would develop into more than just a school, and so did not think to separate the land ownership from the school.
To forestall the sale of the land which could limit future anthroposophical developments on the campus, the “Friends of TWS” have come together to build a different solution to the school’s financial needs. The Friends propose to raise “community bonds” in the amount of $3.6 million so they will be able to offer the school a $3 million, low interest, mortgage on the land, and thereby hope to preserve that land for future use by the school or related initiatives. The Friends have a deadline of January 10th (now revised to Jan. 31, 2014) to collect commitments from interested people. If you want to know more about the Friends’ bond offering, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org
Conversations about the bond and the proposed TWS land sale have been going on in a closed Facebook group called “TWS Online Forum“. If you’re on Facebook and want to check it out, you can ask to join the group.
Watch a video from December 10th, 2013, on the TWS history and the Friends’ community bond proposal, featuring former TWS board chair George Ivanoff (history) and fundraiser and current TWS parent Jon Duschinsky (bond proposal):
Some background on Rudolf Steiner and anthroposophy: