Oakwood Collegiate proposed as T.O.’s first Africentric high school—but nobody asked the students first
Toronto’s Oakwood Collegiate Institute on St. Clair Avenue West may become the first Africentric high school in the city. Just one problem: the Toronto District School Board has so far failed to consult students, teachers and the surrounding committee in its proposal. According to the Toronto Star, students were outraged when they awoke on Saturday to discover their school could house Toronto’s first Africentric high school come September. Parents learned about the proposal in the media and, later, via a letter on the school’s Web site that announced a Tuesday-night public meeting to address the matter, organized after much community and school council dissension.
Co-chair of OCI’s school council, David Battison, a former Oakwood student himself, told the Star, “They’re trying to ram this down our throats without any consultation. Everyone’s devastated. I have not heard one person or student that approves of this.” Students have started a Facebook group and an on-line petition in protest. The petition reads “Oakwood has been a successful MULTICULTURAL school for 100 years, so why change it now? This is a public school and anyone of any race is allowed to attend without any ‘special treatment.’”
At the meeting on Tuesday night, however, trustee Maria Rodrigues hopes to clear up rumours and misunderstandings about the proposed Africentric program. There is, in fact, one other Africentric school in Toronto—an elementary school, Africentric Alternative, which started in 2009. Similar to the proposed high school at Oakwood, Africentric Alternative is a school-within-a-school and students can take classes offered by the host school and vice versa. The TDSB is considering Oakwood as the first Africentric high school partly due to space; Oakwood currently has 730 students and room for approximately 300 more. Since Africentric Alternative already has a wait list for its program, the proposed new secondary school program may need the extra space as well. That is, if the proposal is approved by a committee of trustees on Wednesday.