The District School Board of Niagara in Ontario, Canada has announced that it is opening a new school next September that is exclusively for low-income students. According to the Ottawa Citizen, the school will initially offer just grades 6 and 7 and spaces will be offered to students whose parents have not attended college or university and who are currently living under the poverty line. The school hopes to expand each year, until it eventually offers grades 6 through 12.
Champions of this school point to it as a way to break the cycle of poverty. They claim that the current school system is not meeting the needs of these students and that having them concentrated in one school will make it easier to ensure they get the support and programs that they need to succeed. The school is expected to offer programs such as mentoring, college and university preparation and free meals. Parents in the area appear to be happy with these plans and there is already a waiting list to enroll students for next fall.
However, not everyone is excited about this idea. A local New Democratic Party (NDP) Member of Provincial Parliament, Peter Kormos, wrote an open letter criticizing the plans. According to Niagara This Week, Kormos says the proposal “suggests ‘poor’ children should be kept with their own kind,” creating a form of “educational apartheid.”
Kormos’ objection to the school is similar to the objections made by some people in Toronto to the opening of a black-focused school to help fight the 40 percent dropout rate among Toronto’s black teens several years ago. While some parents and experts strongly supported the school as a key measure to address issues facing black youth in Toronto, others worried about the perception and effects of segregation in the public school system.
Are specialized schools for target populations a good way to address problems? Or will segregation create additional problems and exacerbate the marginalization of oppressed groups?
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Annie blogs about the art and science of parenting at the PhD in Parenting blog.
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