While the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) has been getting a lot of publicity lately about alternative schools, it seems that, not only is the concept growing all across Canada, it has hit the mainstream media. For example, a hat tip to regular reader, West Coast Teddi, who provided this link to a National Post article dated yesterday by Tom Blackwell — with the title “Specialized public schools catch on in Canada.”
As noted in the title of Blackwell’s column, sometimes they are referred to as specialized or specialty schools. Other times they may be referred to as alternative schools or, in some provinces, independent or charter schools.
Whatever their name, they are based on student and community need. As such, there are sport schools, like the “basketball school” in Hamilton, Ontario mentioned in the above link, as well as French immersion, liberal arts schools that are all-boys or all-girls, fine arts schools, schools designated for First Nations and black youth of African descent, music and choir, and so on. Key, of course, is that they are all publicly funded with taxpayers money.
Why is this happening now? Well, in my opinion, it is the intersection of needs and reality. On the one hand, there is student and community need and a demand for school choice. On the other, there is the fact that most public school boards in Canada are experiencing declining enrollments. Meaning, that boards are having to think competitively to both retain and recruit students — and one way to do that is to provide the choice students and parents seem to want.
In other words, if done cautiously and based on demand, alternative schools can be a win/win for everyone!