More than 200 students from Vaughan Road Academy forced to split up
Some will transfer to Forest Hill C.I., but others face much longer commutes
Jason Kunin has taught at Vaughan Road Academy for the past 17 years
For the 220 students and 30 staff members of Vaughan Road Academy (VRA), slated to close later this year, feelings range from resentment to bittersweet acceptance as they ramp up for a spring season of farewell events and prepare for what comes next.
The 149 Vaughan Road Academy students not graduating this year will be dispersed into 18 schools across the GTA: Students in the International Baccalaureate program will join the IB program at Weston Collegiate Institute and the Interact program to Oakwood Collegiate Institute.
“It’s still kind of traumatic for them. I think for kids it was less about the programs and more about tearing apart their social network,” said Jason Kunin, a teacher who has spent 17 years at VRA. “They were all trying to see where their friends were going.”
Kunin argued optional attendance at Forest Hill C.I. (FHCI) is largely to blame for the closure, since many of the students that wound up at FHCI were technically in VRA’s catchment area.
According to Cynthia Zwicker-Reston, principal of VRA, 31 students will be transfering to FHCI, which is already over capacity.
The utilization rate at FHCI for the 2016-17 school year is 119.8 per cent with 959 students. Priority has been granted to VRA students transferring next year, but Toronto District School Board trustee Shelley Laskin said the school can accommodate more students, as class sizes often range above the standard set by the Ontario Ministry of Education of 21 pupils per classroom.
“If each classroom hosted a class of 26 students, but was rated for 21, the school would be able to accommodate five extra students for every classroom than what the capacity otherwise reflects.… FHCI has operated between 117 and 128 per cent for the last 10 years.”
Meanwhile, other students have elected to go elsewhere, and some will face longer commutes.
“We live in the community, so it’s been great to be able to walk to Vaughan Road,” said Jean Birch, a mother of two VRA students who will be moving on to schools further away. “For my daughter, there are going to be things that she does, extracurricular activities especially, that are not going to be as accessible because of the distance to travel to school.” The commute to Weston C.I., where her daughter is enrolled next year, takes between 35 to 45 minutes by bus.