The Toronto District School Board has released a staff report recommending the board open a black-focused high school in 2009.

The highly controversial issue is to be discussed at a special meeting of the board on Jan. 29.

The report makes four main recommendations:

  • Open an "Africentric" alternative school in 2009.
  • Start a three-year pilot program in three other high schools.
  • Work with York University to improve school achievement.
  • Develop a plan to help failing students.

Those who support the idea say an alternative school could help reduce a disproportionately high dropout rate among black students in Toronto. Those opposed say it would create yet another cultural divide.

Donna Harrow, a parent and an advocate for students, was one of those who made the original proposal for the change in curriculum.

She's looking forward to Tuesday's board meeting. "I want to be able to have a frank discussion with the trustees on the 29th of this month," she said.

Harrow and Angela Wilson proposed three alternative schools — one in the north, one in the east and one in the west of the city.
 
All three schools would have a curriculum focused on black students. The same subjects would be taught, but from an African-Canadian point of view. 
 
But not everyone thinks a curriculum recognizing black culture and contributions requires an alternative school.
 
"Every student across the city, no matter what school they go to, [should] learn about African histories and cultures and role models, but learn together, not divided into different schools," said school trustee Josh Matlow.
 
But Harrow doesn't see why a group of citizens who want an alternative school shouldn't get one. She would like to see the schools operating next fall.