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Chris Spence

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

Ontario's first public Africentric high school is off to a modest start, with just six students enrolled for this fall.

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) will be making a push to boost enrollment for the school, which is being housed at Winston Churchill Collegiate in Scarborough, and has reassigned two of the three teaching staff originally assigned to the controversial program.

"We're not giving up on the program, we believe in it," said Director of Education Chris Spence.

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Despite an similarly rough start and disagreements amongst parents and educators over how to run the school, the TDSB's elementary Africentric school has generally been considered a success. It opened in 2009 as a way to create a culturally relevant and engaging school for black youth, who are more likely to drop out of high school than almost any other group.

The oldest cohort at the elementary school is now in Grade 8, and the original plan was to open an Africentric high school in 2013 so that those children could continue on within the program.

At the last minute, in late spring, the board decided to try to run a pilot program for this fall, leaving little time for recruitment.

"Things just happened late," said Dr. Spence. "We wanted to have a pilot program so that we could have the curriculum ready."

The concept of an Africentric high school caused an uproar when it was first proposed for Oakwood Collegiate nearly one year ago. School and community members said it amounted to segregation. The Winston Churchill community have been much more welcoming to the idea.

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