Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Black only school possibly opening in Toronto

Why is segregating blacks okay now? Why is it not okay that I send my kid to a Christian school on the public dime?

Admitting it is failing some students of colour, the Toronto public board
could open a black-focused school as early as next fall.

Two community meetings are planned in the next week to discuss the idea of an "African-centred alternative school" from junior kindergarten to Grade 8 that would have more black teachers, black mentors, more focus on students' heritage and more parent involvement.

Black-focused schools have been a lightning rod issue both inside and outside Ontario's black community since they were first proposed in 1995 by the province's Royal Commission on Learning as a way to address lower graduation rates among black students.

Two years ago a call for black-focused schools in Toronto caused an uproar between those who warned they smack of segregation and those who believe that black students who study more black authors, scientists and thinkers; have more black teachers as role models; and attend schools that set clear, high expectations of black students can fight the alienation some black teens say leads them to drop out of mainstream schools.

Harrow said the Toronto District School Board is "very supportive and interested in working toward having a school up and running in September," and that possible locations are being scouted.

The board has been piloting several "Africentric" social studies units in Grades 6, 7 and 8 at a handful of schools in the northwest part of the city and has run an Africentric summer camp near Jane and Finch in recent summers.

The Toronto board already has a grade school and high school for First Nations students and an alternative high school for gay and lesbian teens.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty opposed the notion of black-focused schools in 2005, after more than 500 parents and students called for such schools at a public forum on black achievement in Toronto. Noting he was "not comfortable with that concept," McGuinty said at the time: "I'm much more comfortable with the concept of bringing children from a variety of backgrounds together."

At a Toronto school board discussion of the idea in June, some trustees warned it could fracture the school system, but Education Director Gerry Connelly insisted the status quo isn't working. "We are not serving our African students well," Connelly told trustees. "There is evidence having a school of this kind does make a difference."

The community meetings will be held Thursday at 7 p.m. at North Albion Collegiate on Kipling Ave. north of Finch Ave. W., and Monday at 7 p.m. at Northview Heights Secondary School on Finch Ave. W.

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