“Her very first day, she came home and she said, ‘This is amazing’”

A family moves house and gets their daughter into an academic gem in the Beach

  • Who: Phil and Kathy Georgopoulos, parents to 11-year-old Stephanie, and five-year-old Tom.
  • What they do: Co-owners of Blue Star Properties, a design-build firm specializing in home renovations.
  • Where they live: A five-bedroom detached home near Kingston and Victoria Park.

Phil and Kathy have both been living in Toronto’s east end since before they met, as 14-year-old high schoolers at East York Collegiate in 1990. When they married, about a decade later, there was no doubt in either of their minds that they’d keep living to the right of the DVP. “For me it’s just home,” Phil says. “It’s just what we’re used to. The west end is kind of foreign.”

As professional homebuilders, they never stayed in one dwelling for long. “We’ve lived in probably at least 10 different places,” Phil says. “But they’ve all been in the Danforth area, or near the Beaches.” By the time their daughter Stephanie was entering primary school they had landed in a home inside the catchment area of Williamson Road Junior Public School, where they enrolled her in French immersion.

By Grade 3, it was clear that Williamson Road wasn’t completely meeting Stephanie’s needs. “She liked the school, but it was a big school,” Phil says. “We thought it would be better to have something a little bit smaller, something with a little bit more space.” Stephanie was struggling in French immersion. It was time for a change.

A real estate agent friend told Phil and Kathy about another nearby public school, Courcelette Public School, which had a stellar reputation and a smaller student population. “We thought that moving would be a good idea,” Phil says. “But nothing ever comes up for sale in the school district. And if it does, it’s usually a multi-million dollar home.” The catchment was minuscule, but, as luck would have it, a two-storey detached home in the area went up for sale, and it was in their price range.

They closed on the home in summer 2016, and Stephanie started at Coucelette the following fall. The switch from French immersion to an English program required some adjustment, but Phil and Kathy immediately noticed a positive change in their daughter’s outlook. “Her very first day, she came home and she said, ‘This school is amazing,” Phil says. Her academic performance improved, and the neighbourhood kids welcomed her.

The following year, Phil and Kathy bought a second home in Courcelette’s catchment area—a run-down three-bedroom detached home with an unfinished basement. They spent a year renovating it from top to bottom, and they added a window-lined rear extension with views of the nearby Lynndale Parkette. In 2018, they moved in and put their other house on the market. They wouldn’t have dreamed of making the move if the new home hadn’t been in the Coucelette school district.

Aside from the academic benefits, Phil and Kathy have come to appreciate the school’s relaxed social scene. Courcelette hosts annual events, like a Saturday “Santa’s breakfast” in December. Frequent field trips for the kids are abetted by an active parent community. Tom’s kindergarten class recently made a visit to Ripley’s Aquarium.

On top of everything else, Phil and Kathy like knowing that both of their children will spend a few years attending the same school, despite the gap in their ages. Courcelette goes to Grade 8, so Stephanie will have three more years with her little brother.

Staying in the school district hasn’t come without sacrifice for Phil and Kathy. They feel as though they paid a significant premium for real estate in the area.

They say that they might one day want to live closer to the shops and other amenities on Queen Street East, but, for the time being, it’s hard for them to imagine living anywhere else. Their densely treed stretch of Scarborough, a short distance from the Lakeshore, feels like an idyll in the middle of an increasingly dense city. The area is safe enough that Stephanie can easily walk to school, or to her friends’ homes.