TDSB task force calls for end to specialized schools in draft report

The TDSB Equity Task Force released a report earlier this month with suggestions on how the board can be more inclusive. One of those recommendations is to end specialized programs, which the report noted have "resulted in divisions between schools." That isn't sitting well with some students.

Board says task force wants to increase marginalized students' access to specialty programs

Niam Pattni, left, and Frank Hong say they're outraged at the task force's suggestion to end specialized programs at the TDSB. (John Lesavage/CBC)

Draft recommendations put forward by a Toronto District School Board task force are causing a stir with students in specialized programs and their parents.

The TDSB Equity Task Force released a report earlier this month with suggestions on how the board can be more inclusive. One of those recommendations is to end specialized programs, which the report noted have "resulted in divisions between schools."

That isn't sitting well with some students.

Earl Haig Secondary School is home to a specialized arts program. (John Lesavage/CBC)

"It really comes as a shock," said Frank Hong, a student at Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute. He's in the TOPS program, which specializes in math, sciences, and language arts.

"[These programs are] an essential part of the school community, and to take them away from communities and from potential future students is horrible."

The parent council of Earl Haig Secondary School, home to a specialized arts program, highlighted the section of the task force's report draft that suggests ending such programs and emailed their concerns to other parents at the school.

Parents of students at Earl Haig Secondary School shared an email with their concerns about the draft report. (Submitted)

"From there, there was a lot of outrage online from students expressing their dislike in the TDSB's decision," said Niam Pattni, a student in the MaCS program at William Lyon Mackenzie Collegiate Institute.

But on Friday, a spokesperson for the TDSB said decisions are far from made.

"The Enhancing Equity Task Force has put out these draft recommendations, and 'draft 'really is the key," said Ryan Bird. "These are not even the final recommendations, or the final say."

Bird said the task force is not looking to scrap schools or programs, but rather enhance marginalized students' access to them.

TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird says decisions on the task force's report are far from made. (John Lesavage/CBC)

"The whole idea is that they've heard from literally thousands of people to help formulate draft recommendations that they put out there publicly so we can have the exact conversations we're having now," he said.

"If people have a concern, these are still only drafts — we'd encourage them to click on the TDSB website and you can learn how to get in touch with the task force to have your say."

The board is accepting feedback on the matter online until the end of the month.

A final equity report will come out in December.

About the Author

Julia Whalen

Associate Producer, CBC Toronto

Julia has been working in journalism since 2012 — first as a newspaper reporter in Moncton, before making the move to Toronto to work for CBC. She's particularly interested in social issues, health and the creative community, and is a proud Maritimer and dedicated fundraiser for type 1 diabetes research.

With files from Ali Chiasson