Go Play! …Red and Green?

“Welcome to the New NT, to the clean and eco-friendly building that we deserve so much!”  We were all told those words at the welcome assembly and is it just me, or does that sound like a bit of an exaggeration. Firstly, can someone please remind me what NT’s school colours are? Red and Grey? Yes, the cheer is “Go play, red and grey!” The new school has got the grey concept totally down, but red? Where on earth can we find any red in the school? Instead we have green walls and green auditorium chairs. And not even a pretty green at that. Some students at NT describe it as “a yellowish puke kinda green”, or a green colour slightly resembling that of our liquid excrement. Not the most pleasant sight as we walk into the commons. And unfortunately, even the grey isn’t very nice to look at. Grey isn’t the most cheerful colour to begin with, but the whole school seems to be a delightful sight of grey cinderblocks. Turn any corner, walk any hall, and I guarantee you that another wall of cement blocks will gladly greet you. Yet isn’t it funny how I have heard many students feel that these school-coloured walls remind them more of a juvenile prison than a high school? I guess, in simple terms, the school just has no personality. Everywhere is essentially a copy of somewhere else, just a repetition of grey wall, white lockers, and fluorescent lights.

Sadly, the series of unfortunate architectural flaws does not end there. How about the bike racks we were told would be in place for students who want to ride to school? Or Mr. Pidgeon’s invisible projector? Or Dr. Chan’s lights which can’t seem to make up their mind if they want to be on or off? Or the stage which is already starting to chip away, revealing the spongy cardboard-like substance hidden within it? Yes, yes, I know the school is not yet finished and we should be patient while it is being perfected. But honestly, who thought that moving a bunch of high school students into an unfinished building was a good idea? As much as I hate the stereotypes of stupid teens, I know there are many of them out there. You might as well be leaving a bag of money in a safe that isn’t fully secured. An unfinished school plus destructive, loud teens combine into something that would make a baby cry. I have heard that we moved during the summer because the old school was falling apart. But then let’s think about why the school was falling apart. Partially because it was old, but mostly because the TDSB just stop bothering about it. “We’re going to have a new school soon so why waste money on repairing a lost cause?”-and so the people with the money make stupid decisions and the schools destruction rate rapidly increases until we really have no choice but to move the students into the unfinished school…and I observe as that unfinished school already starts it’s path to destruction.

Many flaws have been pointed out here, but I’d like to include a few more that just make no sense. Firstly, why is there so much glass? Did no one consider lockdown procedures? And who would want to clean such wide surfaces that will soon be covered in fingerprints and sweat and who knows what else? Secondly, how does anyone expect a high school student to fit all their things in such puny lockers? And why do certain lockers greet us with a wall of cement as soon as we open them? Why is it that the people living in the condos have a pool and the students who actually need a pool are denied one? Why are the auditorium chairs green? Anyone who has seen a good auditorium knows that the chairs should be red! Why is it that the stage crew can no longer change stage lights?(Because by the way, one has already burnt out, and it will remain that way until the school can get a work order and get someone from the board to change it). And why was the girl’s washroom’s ceiling already starting to fall off on the first week of school? Why are some of the walls crooked? Don’t get me wrong, I like having clean washrooms and all that, but I would sacrifice them any day for a school that was actually built to last, not one that was made as cheaply as possible by Tridel who doesn’t even care about the students but instead cares only about their profit-and that can be easily seen when one compares the inside of the condo to the school. Just to start, I assure you there are no badly cemented, crooked walls.

As obvious as it is that there are many things I dislike about this ‘new’ NT, there is a larger problem I feel that everyone should really consider. What is so green about the new NT? Yes, there are the low-flow toilets and the green roof (which students cannot access), and automatic lights. But more than that, has no one noticed how un-eco-friendly the school is? Let’s go back to when we were moving everything from the old school. If you walked through the halls during exam time, there were boxes and bins and of stuff that was being thrown out. Not recycled, not donated, not sold, but thrown into the garbage. Books written in the mid-nineteen hundreds, monitors, records, teacups, and films… all put into the garbage. How was no one bothered by this? Why did no one think to sell any of it, because I promise you, there was lots that could have been sold. Yet funnily enough, when this problem was mentioned to a staff member I will remain anonymous, the answer I got back was “well, we are a throw away society.” Imagine that, a respected staff member, so enthusiastic about how eco-friendly their school will be, is telling a concerned student that there is nothing we can do about all of the garbage that needn’t be garbage, because we are a throw away society. Shouldn’t the staff at NT be leaders and teachers of the importance of the famed ‘three R’s’?  With such a comment, my respect for anything about the new school had already diminished, and as I continue to walk the halls of the new NT, that respect really hasn’t grown at all. How about grade 9 welcome day which resulted in a box of disposable cups going into the garbage, or the award winner’s reception which had a similar outcome. I hear the words “eco-friendly” over and over and yet I see no staff seeming to really want make a change. Yes, there are the scrap-paper bins, but in general, I only hear eco-friendly as if it is but a thought that just sounds pleasant to the ear.

It seems that the school has become a “juvenile prison” of grey and puke-green with no life, and no personality. You can no longer find the Asian crowd in the math hallway, the musicians jamming in the foyer or echo chamber, the music nerds in the music hall way, the grads with their good ol’ grad couch (because, by the way, supposedly it’s a property violation…which only seems to matter now that we have to look ‘pretty’ for all the so-called important people who want to visit to, perhaps, gain a few extra votes). School should be about community and friends and comfort and yet so much has been taken away. The security guards who sometimes appear seem to expect everything terrible from us, and the music office no longer has its door always open. You’d think as a graduate I know every nook and cranny of my school, and I feel at home and happy-yet quite contrarily I hate school more than I ever have, and I don’t feel a sense of comfort anywhere. Maybe I should be more appreciative, but maybe the people who made the decisions should’ve used their brains a bit more. Maybe I’m too critical and harsh, but then again maybe Tridel should be more considerate and not take away our pool and potentially our swim team.

I know it’s too late and it will never be the same. I know I will never again squish into the comfort of the grad couch, or lie on the foyer bench listening to people play the guitar. Although I’m nostalgic, I know I will never have my old and lovable auditorium back. But just the same, that doesn’t mean that I should accept all the rubbish the money-makers have so generously given us. Because do you know what? The new NT is not perfect, and it is not the most amazing school. And someone needs to point out the problems so this disaster will not be repeated.  Maybe some day a poor school will be saved from the same tragedy.