New elementary academies in Toronto spark controversy

Parents have mixed reactions toward the new academies coming to the Toronto District School Board in September.

Registration has begun for nine new specialized elementary academies across the city. Some locations will focus on sports and wellness, others on vocal music. There will also be some girls-only and boys-only schools.The learning will follow the provincial curriculum with emphasis on the chosen specialized area. There are no qualifications to get in. Registration is on a first-come, first-serve basis.

TDSB plans 9 new academies:

  • Shoreham Public School (Sports and Wellness)
  • James S. Bell Junior Middle School (Sports and Wellness)
  • Carleton Village Junior & Senior Public School (Sports and Wellness)
  • Heather Heights Junior Public School (Vocal Music)
  • Ryerson Community School (Vocal Music)
  • Rene Gordon Elementary School (Health and Wellness)
  • Donview Middle School (Health and Wellness)
  • Highland Heights Junior Public School (Girls’ Leadership)
  • The Elms Junior Middle School (Boys’ Leadership)

The school board introduced these programs to raise their enrollment rate, which is decreasing by 4,000 per year.

“What I would be most interested in is the athletics, first and foremost, only because boys are different from girls … boys learn in a whole different manner, they need to be much more physical,” parent Rosa Regula said. Her son is starting school next year in the Toronto District School Board.

“Oftentimes, parents are not in a financial position to expose them to different things. I think it is a great idea that schools attempt to do that,” she said.

There will be two specialized schools in Scarborough. Heather Heights Public School will be focusing on vocal music. Highland Heights Junior Public School will be a girls’ leadership academy.

“I think it’s wonderful. I’m a musician. It is a positive influence in children’s lives,” Brian Bennett, principal of Heather Heights Public School, said.

Heather Heights will be starting the program for Grades 4, 5, and 6 in the fall. They are planning to extend it to Grade 7 in the second year, and Grade 8 in the third.

Students will have opportunities to perform in the community.

Heather Heights is having an information session for parents on Feb. 9 at 7 p.m.

“I started at age six. A great time to start music is when you learn to read and write,” Bennett said.

The academies will be integrated into already existing schools, but they will not affect the students currently attending the school because they are separate entities.

Some parents have a different opinion about the specialized schools.

“I’m patently opposed to segregating students … It’s a band-aid solution to a societal woe,” parent Javier Ibañez said. He has four boys in the Toronto District School Board.

“It reflects poor leadership in TDSB … The school board is trying to solve problems that are not theirs to solve,” he said.