Miranda Belen is looking forward to attending OCAD University next year, something she says is only possible because of the education she got at Father John Redmond Secondary School in south Etobicoke.
"I don't think i'd have that opportunity if not for my school and all of its specialty programs," she told CBC Toronto.
On Thursday night, the Grade 12 student hopes to speak before school trustees, urging them reconsider plans to impose boundaries that would prevent some students from attending her school in the future.
"I am going to tell them my personal story, how I am a student out of the area for my school, yet since I was still able to audition for a specialty program. I could still get in."
'I don't think I'd have that opportunity if not for my school and all of its specialty programs' Miranda Belen, Grade 12 student, Father Redmond Secondary School
The Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) is currently seeking public feedback on a proposal to adopt fixed attendance boundaries for all its secondary schools.
Under its current system, Grade 8 students are allowed to apply to the school closest to where they live, or to be put on a wait list for a spot at another school.
In addition, students wanting to apply to specialty programs have the choice of the two closest schools offering the program.
The board says that has led to a situation where some secondary schools are overcrowded, and others are under capacity.
The TCDSB wants to move to a system where schools are given fixed catchment borders, meaning only students who live in areas that feed the school will be able to apply.
Belen says that would apply to most of her friends. She says she's helping to circulate an online petition to oppose the policy.
Danielle Eveleigh says her son is currently excelling in the Grade 9 advanced placement math program at Father John Redmond. She says under the new rule, he would not have been able to attend it because he lives out of district.
"There should be no boundaries on a regional specialty program," Eveleigh told CBC Toronto.
She thinks the current consultation process has been rushed. "It doesn't seem like it is being handled properly. It hasn't been communicated properly. "
Suzanne Tiefenbeck's triplets are starting high school in September. Two of them chose to go to Father John Redmond because it offers both a challenging academic specialty program and because of its regional arts program.
"It was a big draw for them," she said. "We didn't have to choose between one or the other. They could apply to both programs."
She fears that wouldn't be allowed under the proposed changes.
Ward 2 Trustee Ann Andrachuk says Father John Redmond is the only school in the board to offer both specialty programs and doesn't know why board staff overlooked that when drafting the new rules.
"Now that it is brought to our attention and on our radar, that is something that needs to be corrected."
She adds parents have been very vocal about changes they'd like to see in the proposal.
"It is a work in progress. We're listening to what the community has to say. They're offering constructive ideas," Andrachuk said.
Andrachuk is planning a meeting with concerned parents at Father John Redmond next week. She hopes to get their concerns addressed before trustees vote on the changes June 15.
"Let's be thoughtful about this because it is very impactful to a lot of our students," she said. "Lets do right by our students, but we have to do the right thing for our schools as well."
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