Toronto trustees will meet privately Monday night to discuss four approaches to improving the academic performance of black youth.
Among the possibilities contained in a report on the issue are a black-focused alternative school in the northwest end of the city or starting black-focused programs in three existing schools.
The two other options suggest board-wide plans to improve student achievement for blacks and other "vulnerable" students, or setting up a centre for innovation with York University and other community agencies that would focus on schools where the student body is predominantly black.
The report, a copy of which was obtained by the Star, says that if trustees choose a stand-alone school, "due process and decision-making may not be completed in time for September 2008 start-up" – a date that parents and advocates had hoped for.
A public meeting is to be held later this month, where parents and community members may address trustees on the issue.
Trustees will likely vote on the issue at the regular board meeting on Jan. 30.
The report says an Africentric, or black-focused, school would be "open to all students, which uses the sources of knowledge and experiences of peoples of African descent as an integral feature of the teaching and learning environment."
Such a school would give parents "a clear choice," the report says, but it might be a challenge to find an existing school in an accessible area.
Trustee Josh Matlow said he opposes an Africentric school, calling it "the top of the slippery slope."
"I want to support programming and other types of supports that help every kid in every school in Toronto," he said.
Premier Dalton McGuinty has also said he's not comfortable with the idea of a black-focused school, but that it's up to the board to decide.
But board Chair John Campbell, shortly after being elected last December to head the board, said he's not opposed to the idea.
"We have a group of customers (students) that is dissatisfied and not doing well, or some of them aren't doing well, and we have to figure out a way to address that," he told the Star.
The board already has schools for native students as well as an alternative high school for gay and lesbian teens.
Former board Chair Sheila Ward said after a raucous meeting last November, in which black-school supporters protested the fact a report wasn't completed – as promised – that they were on the "cusp of victory" after many years of advocating for such a school.
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