The hunt for the perfect west-end neighbourhood school

How one family’s search led them to a charming enclave near the Humber River

  • Who: Christine Winiker, parent to 17-year-old Eric, and 14-year-old Leo
  • What she does: Sales manager at Forrester Research
  • Where she lives: A three-bedroom townhouse near Dundas and Royal York

When Christine and her ex-husband were first married, in the late 1990s, they bought a home together in the Etobicoke neighbourhood of Rexdale. “We moved to Rexdale because we wanted a detached house,” she says. “We had a dog, so we needed a yard. And we had both grown up in houses that were detached, so that was very important to us.”

“In the price range that we could afford at the time, there were very, very few of those places that were available,” she says. But home prices in Rexdale were mercifully low, so they were able to buy a house on a cul de sac, with a ravine in the backyard. It seemed perfect, until a few years later, when Eric, the first of their two sons, was born. After looking at their local public primary school in Rexdale, they discovered a better fit for the family at another junior school not far way. Humber Valley Village Junior Middle School had superior results, a sterling reputation and a further advantage: it was located in a charming neighbourhood near the Humber River, an area criss-crossed with trails ideal for dog-walking.

But there was a downside. Unlike Rexdale, Humber Valley was relatively expensive. Finding a detached house in the school district was not going to be easy. They wondered if it would be simpler to enroll Eric in a private school.

When Christine was pregnant with Leo, and with Eric entering junior kindergarten, they bought a home near Islington and the Kingsway, within the Humber Valley catchment area. The price they paid was low for the neighbourhood, but it was more than they could easily afford at the time. “We decided to overspend to get into the neighbourhood,” Christine says. The house they got, a modest bungalow with an attached garage, wasn’t an upgrade; it was similar to their Rexdale pad in almost every respect except for price.

Eric only lasted a few years at the school before being moved into a program for gifted children in a different part of the city. But Leo, now in Grade TK, has excelled at Humber Valley. The school’s catchment area includes both affluent homes and apartment towers, so he has a diverse group of friends, some of whom he has known since early elementary school. He participates in a few school sports. The nearby Humbertown Shopping Centre is a walkable destination, and it makes a convenient place for he and his classmates to eat and spend time after school.

Christine, too, has grown attached to the neighbourhood, to the extent that when she and her husband separated, two years ago, and they put their home on the market, she made it her mission to find another place to live nearby. Her new home is a townhouse just a few doors down from her old address.