Africentric school site

A site has been chosen for Toronto’s Africentric Alternative School, and interested locals had better get used to waking up at least an hour earlier.

The school, set to begin classes in September 2009, will be open to any Toronto school board student from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 5, and will be located inside Sheppard Public School, on Sheppard Avenue West , near Keele Street.

Although 17-year-old Winston Churchill Collegiate student Stephanie Dixon is too old to attend the school, she came to the first public information meeting Tuesday at Winston Churchill, because the idea of an Africentric school interests her.

But the location of the school would definitely deter her from going if the opened it to higher grades.

“It seems too far to travel,” Dixon said. “I’d have to wake up pretty early to get up there for class.

“I’m not a person that likes to get up early.”

Her current school is a 15-minute commute from her home now, and the Sheppard Ave. W. site would tack at least an hour on top of her morning journey.

Like any other alternative program the board has, the Africentric school is a by-choice program, so there will be no bussing provisions. The onus instead, is on the parents.

“I don’t want any parents having false hopes,” Scarborough Centre trustee Scott Harrison says. “Parents will be on their own to get their son or daughter there.”

Regardless of the challenges with transportation from Scarborough, local parents should not totally rule the idea out, Scarborough Rouge-River trustee Shaun Chen says.

“I certainly think if there are students that feel they could benefit, they could take transportation,” Chen says. “The Sheppard bus runs all the way across.

“It’s not impossible.”

Chen says the site was chosen because the largest concentration of parent and student interest in the school was in that area.

Even though Harrison was among the nine trustees that voted against the Africentric school on principle in January, he believes the school should be given a chance.

“Even though I didn’t support it at the board, they made the decision to go ahead with it so we need to support the board position,” Harrison says.

Whether or not the school will be successful, no one knows, but the action the board is taking is what is important, Chen says.

“We don’t have a crystal ball at the school board,” Chen said. “But what has been clear to us is that there is disengagement in our system, that there is a 40 per cent dropout rate among black youths, and the worst thing we could do is sit idle.”