Less than a month after Canada’s first Africentric alternative public school opened its doors, enrollment has increased by 45 to 130 and there is a waiting list for students seeking acceptance.
Negotiating for more space is now an option as the school seeks to cope with the escalating numbers.
The Africentric School shares space with Sheppard Public School where the enrollment declined from about 1,000 to close to 300 because of the closure of the nearby Downsview military base.
“I must admit, although I knew that as the school got started and there would be an increase in interest, I did not anticipate parents’ willingness to enroll their kids would happen so quickly,” said Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Executive Officer of Student and Community Affairs, Lloyd McKell. “This is a pleasant surprise and it augurs well for the future.
“As I see it, the Africentric School and Sheppard Public School could collaborate to free up additional space to accommodate the expanded growth. Working with our Facilities Service team, they will have to look at all the available space and figure out how best to re-arrange the space so that both schools could fully accommodate their programs. The other implication of expanded enrollment is that additional teachers have to be hired.”
The Africentric School has hired an additional two teachers that have been assigned to the expanded kindergarten and Grade One classes that have experienced the majority of the growth in the past month.
Ivan Dublin has joined Heather Mark as the kindergarten teachers while Dexter Morris will, with Nadia Hohn and Marina Hodge, teach Grades One and Two. Both Morris and Dublin held long-term occasional teaching positions.
There were approximately 100 applicants from every cultural range in the city for the two positions.
The school had an all-female staff prior to the recent hirings.
“We needed a male presence because our young men need mentorship,” said Principal Thando Hyman-Aman.
She also acknowledged she did not expect the school’s enrollment to expand so quickly.
“You have set numbers and you work with them,” she said. “Things you don’t anticipate to happen so quickly arise and then you have to work to make the necessary changes. I am extremely happy in the interest shown in the school and what we have to offer and will do whatever I could to make sure that every parent who would like their child to attend this school is given the opportunity to do so.”
As part of the changes made to make room for the increased growth, the school’s music room has been converted into a classroom.
“We now have two extra classes and space has become an issue which is positive in one way because there is an interest in what we are doing,” said Hyman-Aman who graduated from Teachers College in 1995. “We, however, have to find a way to secure more space to offer the programs we are mandated to provide.”
The Africentric School was one of four TDSB alternative schools launched this semester.