The District School Board of Niagara has done what it can to answer the community’s questions about the DSBN Academy, the board’s manager of communication says.
Set to open in September, the DSBN Academy aims to help students become the first in their families to graduate from a post-secondary institution. It’s drawn criticism from the community and education critics, who say the school will marginalize low-income students.
“People might not realize some of the information that is important for them to know so they fill in the blanks,” said Kim Yielding, manager of communications and public relations for the DSBN. “We’ve been able to let people know, answer their questions and correct any misinformation that might be out there.”
The board declined to send a representative a community-hosted public forum regarding the new school held March 3.
“Community consultation is extremely important,” Yielding said. “We have engaged in a lot of community consultation all through the process, from April 2009 to now.”
The board, however, felt the forum was in a research stage and didn’t fit in the board’s process, she said.
Laura Ip, one of the four organizers of the forum, said the forum was about more than the DSBN Academy.
“It’s a meeting about helping students who are struggling with their studies, which was why we wanted the DSBN, Pathways and Success Beyond Limits all presenting,” Ip said. “Success Beyond Limits is actually a program that could be implemented within the schools, so it would have been extremely advantageous for the DSBN or a representative of the DSBN to be there as well.”
The DSBN had conducted 21 information sessions and will continue to meet with different groups such as parent councils and the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario.
Despite their efforts to communicate information about the DSBN Academy, there are still some people who feel that not enough community consultation has taken place.
“They haven’t gone out to the wider community at all,” Ip said.
Some questions answered
In its first year, the DSBN Academy will be able to accommodate a total of 150 students. To get into the DSBN Academy students must fill out and submit an application. If the student applicant meets the criteria they would be admitted to the school.
“Should we receive more applications than we have spaces for it would go to a random lottery,” Yielding said. “The applications would be assigned numbers, the numbers would be entered into a computer system and the computer would randomly choose student applications. We feel by doing it that way it’s not a subjective process.”
Students from all over the Niagara Region can apply to the DSBN Academy. Bus transportation will be provided to those who fall within the boundaries.
“Cost of bussing is obviously an estimated cost based on where students would be coming from. Initially the cost for bussing will be covered through reserves. Once the program is up and running, it would then be covered by the Ministry as a program cost and so it would be intergraded into our budget. It’s not from our current operating budget,” Yielding said.