Vaughan Road Academy to reopen
Davisville Junior P.S. students will move in come fall 2018
Local resident Bill Worrell wants to see the shuttered school used for much-needed community space
Residents living in the Oakwood Avenue and Vaughan Road area will have to wait until the new year to find out if the recently shuttered Vaughan Road Academy can accommodate some much-needed community space.
Last month, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) voted to reopen the high school for September 2018 to house 750 students from Davisville Junior Public School until 2020 while their own aging school building is demolished and rebuilt.
Vaughan Road Academy — which also happens to be rapper Drake’s old stomping grounds — closed its doors for good this past June due to slumping enrolment.
Since the school’s closure, the neighbourhood has been vocal in expressing an urgent need for more community programming and had requested space be set aside in the structure for a community hub.
Jennifer Arp, Toronto District School Board (TDSB) trustee for Ward 8, Eglinton-Lawrence, said the board should know early next year whether or not there will be room for that possibility.
“I’m a firm believer in community hubs, but our first responsibility is to our students,” she said. “Once we know what the building’s going to look like for the Davisville students … then I think at that point we will know if there’s anything left or available for the community.”
Staff must review plans for renovations needed to convert the building from a secondary to a primary school in time for a September 2018 reopening, Arp explained.
“I certainly am hoping that there will be, you know, something, whether it’s adult ESL or some job training program, or a senior program [in the building]. Something that the community can access,” she added.
Members of the Oakwood Vaughan Neighbourhood Action Partnership (OVNAP) have a broader vision in mind.
“We would really like for it to be a gathering spot for the community,” said Bill Worrell, co-chair with OVNAP.
“Up to now, there [has been] two options: one is the school sells the property to private interests, and the other option is the school keeps the property and only uses it for school board uses,” he said.
Worrell said a third option would be to create a partnership between the school board and the community to create a hub that could include space for seniors and arts and youth programming.
TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird confirmed the board has no plans to sell the site.
“The property could be used as a multi-purpose centre, a holding school during construction projects or, in the long term, a future elementary or secondary school,” he said in an email to Post City. “As the TDSB’s use of the property changes, from time to time, there may be some unused space available, which we could consider leasing to community groups.”
Helen Armstrong’s daughter attended the school’s advanced International Baccalaureate program for four years and completed her studies with Vaughan Road Academy’s final graduating class. Armstrong said she is supportive of the community-minded proposal for the school.
“What I’m worried about is [the board will] move to sell it off, and I do think that the community deserves more of a hub,” said Armstrong.
Jason Kunin, a former teacher at Vaughan Road Academy, called the closure “a huge loss.”
Kunin currently teaches at Western Tech but stressed the need for more after-school options for young people in his old neighbourhood, which is something he believes the Vaughan Road Academy building could easily provide.
“My students at Vaughan often complained that there was nothing to do and nowhere to go,” he recalled. “We really need a community centre and a place for kids to go.”
A public pool and daycare currently operate at the TDSB-owned site, and Arp said this programming will be able remain on site.