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Africentric high school wins board approval

Thando Hyman-Aman, principal for Toronto's Africentric public school, in 2009.

Charla Jones/Charla Jones/Globe and Mail

The Toronto District School Board approved the concept of an Africentric high school at a heated board meeting late Wednesday.

The next hurdle, one that proved nearly fatal to the idea last spring, is for the board to identify a site for the school.

Education director Chris Spence said he is hopeful the school will open in the fall of 2012 or 2013.

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The board also approved a suite of specialized schools – all-girls, all-boys, choir and sports and fitness-focused – that will open in the fall of 2012.

Parents from the Africentric elementary school, which opened in the fall of 2009 and has widely been considered a success, crowded the boardroom for the vote. It passed 14 votes to six.

Dr. Spence said he was "pleased" that the TDSB was "thinking outside the box" for ways to reach at-risk students.

There are approximately 30,000 students of African heritage in the board's schools, and as many as 40 per cent of them drop out.

"To not support an Africentric secondary school would be discrimination against the Africentric community," said trustee Maria Rodrigues, shortly before the vote.

Trustee Gerri Gershon voted against the high school. "I can't in good conscience support a school where kids are separated from one another," she said.

Since the elementary Africentric school opened, it has produced above-average scores on standardized tests, and there are currently about 20 students on a waiting list. The success has led some to question whether the school is in fact serving at-risk students.

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Parents from the elementary school were pleased with the vote.

"I'm glad my daughter will have that choice when she gets to high school," said Michelle Hughes, whose daughter, Samantha, is in Grade 4. "The elementary school has helped her build a strong foundation."

In March, TDSB staff proposed opening an Africentric high school at Oakwood Collegiate in midtown this fall. Trustees quickly backed off the idea after students, parents and staff at the school protested that such an idea would "segregate" the multicultural school. They also charged that staff had floated the proposal before consultations with the community.

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Education reporter

Kate Hammer started her journalism career in New York, chasing crime and breaking news for The New York Times. She came to the Globe and Mail in 2008 to do much of the same and ended up investigating allegations of animal cruelty and mismanagement at the Toronto Humane Society. More

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