TDSB to vote on three new alternative schools

TDSB to vote on three new alternative schools: “

By Dave Bowden, National Post

The Toronto District School Board will vote on the creation of three new alternative schools tomorrow, including one that promises a ‘‘holistic’’ approach and another that will focus on social justice, environmentalism and community activism.

The board already has 37 alternative schools, which offer different approaches from those offered by mainstream schools, as well as smaller class sizes and increased parental involvement.

The three new schools are the holistic Whole Child School, the socially oriented Grove Community School, and the da Vinci school, which will place as much emphasis on the arts and physical education as it does on traditional subjects.

If approved, the new schools, combined with the Afrocentric school already enrolling students, would increase the board’s total to 41 alternative schools by September. In addition, more than 40 ‘specialized’ programs throughout the board focus on specific subjects such as math, computer science and the arts.

Trustee James Pasternak, whose ward will include the Afrocentric school, said smaller, more specialized forms of education represent a shift away from a ‘top-down’ policy that he described as ‘an anachronism’ toward a student-first approach.

‘It’s tailoring education delivery to meet the kids’ needs,’ he said. ‘Too much has gone on in the past where we were trying to get the student to fit the education.’

But the executive director of People for Education, a non-profit group that lobbies for educational equality, said the trend toward specialty schools excludes some students. Annie Kidder said many alternative schools and specialized programs, which have limited enrolment, are only accessible to students with parents who have the time, knowledge and means to access them.

‘Wouldn’t it be better to be looking at the approach the alternative schools take and figure out ways that those kinds of approaches [can be made] available in all schools?’ she said.

Ms. Kidder said alternative schools tend to service only a small and specific group, often creating a divide among students in neighbourhoods that have both a community school and an alternative school.

But Mr. Pasternak said alternative schools have ‘the most open enrolment policies of any other cluster of schools.’

Unlike community schools, which limit enrolment within the geographic area surrounding the school, he said each alternative school is open to students from across the city.

‘It is a fairy tale that alternative schools divide kids,’ he said.

Mr. Pasternak suggested alternative schools could kill two birds with one stone, for a board suffering from a student distribution problem. Some schools are so crowded that they’re ‘bursting at the seams,’ while others are mostly empty, he said.

He said inserting alternative or specialty schools into buildings with surplus space could prove a cost-effective way to manage student population. ‘

‘This is the formula for keeping schools open, for maintaining community hubs, for making sure the local school stays [open],’ he said.

However, Ms. Kidder said that approach fails to address the larger issue of declining enrolment.

‘I think that when we’re looking at declining enrolment and empty schools, we have to look at the big picture first, which is, how are we using [all of] our schools?’ she said.

(Via National.)

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