Africentric school enrolment sufficient for launch

Toronto's proposed Africentric school has enrolled enough students to proceed with a plan to open in September.

Toronto's proposed Africentric school has enrolled enough students to proceed with a plan to open in September, says the school board.

The number of students signed up for the new school now exceeds 40, the minimum number decided on by the Toronto District School Board.

Board officials say the parents of 60 students have signed forms expressing their interest in the Africentric school and they are confident the school will open as scheduled in the fall.

The idea of a school with a curriculum emphasizing African studies provoked passionate debates a year ago when the TDSB approved it.

But after the controversy, the interest of parents in sending kids to the school initially proved slim.

Information sessions were poorly attended and only a handful of children were signed up by their parents.

So the board pushed back the deadline and launched an outreach campaign.

James Pasternak, the trustee for Ward 5 where the school will be located, said the extra time and effort helped.

"What you had was a real grassroots effort to explain the schools, to reach out to those who maybe didn't really understand it, to reach out to those who were looking for a real alternative education solution," said Pasternak.

The Africentric school will be located at the Sheppard Public School at 1430 Sheppard Ave. West.

Donna Harrow, a community worker who led the push for the school, hopes enrolment will exceed 125 by opening day.

"What I would really like to see is a number of parents and of students who are happy and excited to go to a school that really makes history," she said.

Pasternak agrees: "Word is getting out that this will be a small, success-oriented, nurturing school in which every student will be given special individual attention — given the resources they need to succeed. And when word gets out that that's the kind of philosophy that we're promoting at this school, parents who really want the best for their kids will start enrolling," he said.