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It’s ho-ho-ho time at Leaside’s schools

It’s the holiday season and Leaside’s schools are buzzing with students preparing for fun-filled festivities. Here are just a few of the plans to make merry this season:

St. Anselm Catholic School

A major highlight is St. Anselm Catholic School’s holiday concert, which will be held next door at St. Anselm Catholic Parish Church on Wed., Dec. 14. This year, as part of “The Year of the Parish” program, a mass will take place at 6 p.m., followed by the concert at 7 p.m. Kathleen Wynne, MPP for Don Valley West, Rob Oliphant, MP for Don Valley West, and Jon Burnside, Councillor for Ward 26, have all been invited.

A special highlight of this concert is the performance by the Governor-General’s Horse Guards Band accompanying the various student choirs. The appearance of the band is made possible by virtue of the fact that David Nespolo, the school’s Grade 6 and 7 teacher, is a member of it. This is a very popular community event and guests are advised to arrive early to get seats.

In addition, a school choir directed by Kim Blanchet will make two appearances in the community, one at The Millwood Seniors’ Residence (921 Millwood) on Tues., Dec. 13, at 2 p.m., and the other at the Bayview Valu-Mart during the lunch hour on Fri., Dec. 16.

Bessborough Elementary and Middle School

Another popular holiday concert is Bessborough Elementary and Middle School’s concert, to be held in the auditorium of Leaside High School on Thurs., Dec. 15, at 6:45 p.m. While a performance by the kindergarten class will take place the previous night at the school, the larger concert will include students from Grades 1 to 8, and their families are expected to fill most of the 750 seats in Leaside’s auditorium.

The show will be a mixture of song and dance routines woven together with a narrative thread. A drama and dance instructor is working with classes now to develop the show as part of the school’s drama and dance curriculum. The songs will include seasonal favourites and more contemporary works. Music teacher Justin McMillan is coordinating a team of teachers to organize the show and there is usually a teacher act in the program as well.

Vice-Principal Caroline Rosenbloom stated that while everyone looks forward to the holiday concert, such events are “all part of the culture at Bessborough” where there is no shortage of social activities all year-round.

Northlea Elementary and Middle School

Northlea Elementary and Middle School is so famous for its excellent music program, developed by retired teacher Mitch Bondy, that it will hold two holiday concerts, one at 1:30 p.m. and the other at 7 p.m. on Wed., Dec. 14, at Northlea United Church to accommodate the large audiences for this popular event.

The concert, being organized by the school’s music teachers, Alice Malach and Christina Loucks, will feature the Grade 5 and 6 choir singing a variety of seasonal songs. The Grade 7 and 8 band and the Grade 4 choir will also participate in the concert.

According to Principal David Ehrlich, the students love participating in the concert and enjoy the positive community feeling that comes with it. This feeling spills over into their Holiday Fest during the last week of school, which celebrates all of the different cultural festivals at this time of year.

Rolph Road Elementary SchoolRolph Road Elementary School

At Rolph Road Elementary School, the main holiday event is Winter Fest, organized by the Home and School Association. It will be held on Tues., Dec. 6, from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m., and feature crafts, caroling, vendors, disc jockey, cake raffle, and a Charlie Brown store where children can purchase donated gifts at very reasonable rates. The events will take place on the main floor of the school and in the gym. This highly anticipated event is very well attended and receives excellent reviews every year.

The spirit of giving is also highlighted at Rolph Road with students raising funds or collecting toys for worthy causes during the season. In fact, Principal Michael Kennedy said that the school has “a tradition of giving throughout the year,” taking part in food drives and the Terry Fox Run.

Bennington Heights

Bennington Heights Elementary School will hold its holiday concert on Thurs., Dec. 15, at 7 p.m. in the gymnasium. Hosted by the students themselves, it will feature dance numbers, skits and performances by the Grades 4, 5 and 6 band.

Music teacher Alana Scharfstein and drama teacher Laura Alarie are currently brainstorming ideas for the concert, and are developing them with their classes and in band practice. The music will be a mixture of traditional Christmas and popular songs, and will include a song for Hanukkah as well.

Another seasonal event at Bennington is the holiday bazaar to be held on Sat., Dec. 10. For this event parents will donate wrapped gifts which can be purchased by the children for their own holiday shopping needs.

Leaside High School

The focus here is less seasonal than that at the elementary schools. Rather than a holiday concert, they are trying something new: an arts exhibition developed by the newly formed Arts Council. The Dec. 1 event will feature interdisciplinary acts including singing, dancing, acting, visual arts and more. “Installations” similar to those for Nuit Blanche will be set up around the first floor of the school, and the performance lineup will run twice to allow people to come and go.

Aside from that event, the student council will be organizing a holiday assembly on the last day of school. Last year, they performed scenes from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” interspersed with singing, dancing, bands and even some teacher performances. A similar collection of acts is planned for this year.

It’s clear that the students and staff of Leaside’s schools truly embrace the holiday season.