Students, parents speaking out over closure of downtown Toronto music school

The TDSB has informed parents and students that it will be pausing admissions at the Downtown Vocal Music Academy. As Tina Yazdani reports, the school had become a safe haven for many students who had experienced bullying at their former schools.

By Tina Yazdani and Meredith Bond

Students and parents who attend the Downtown Vocal Music Academy are speaking out after learning their beloved school will likely be permanently closing next year.

The TDSB announced they will be pausing admissions at the specialty school, housed in the Ryerson Community School, displacing dozens of Grade 4 to 8 students, due to low enrollment.

One Grade 7 student is heartbroken over the decision.

“[The TDSB] is bullying us, and they’re pushing us back into the schools we tried to get away from where we were already bullied. It’s not fair,” said Claire Lennox.

Lennox and her peers received the news earlier this month when the TDSB informed them that this would be their final year attending the school.

The academy, which is just steps from Kensington Market and focused on learning through the arts, has become a safe haven for students who experienced bullying at the schools near their homes, according to many students and parents.

“We’re going to be going back to our home schools and we don’t want to be there. We’ve been bullied and I know a lot of my friends have been called inappropriate names and slurs,” shared Lennox. “At this school, people who are friends, stay your friends.”

Students of DVMA hold posters saying, “Don’t Close Our School.”

Currently, there are 27 students enrolled at the school with 10 kids in a Grade 4/5/6 split class and 17 kids in a Grade 7/8 split class. Lennox’s parents were worried about this outcome.

“She’s being forced into her home school and that’s something that she absolutely can’t do, she won’t thrive. We’ve known this, we’ve made steps to try to solve this, we thought we had it all sorted out until this surprise,” said Lennox’s father.

“We’re incredibly upset and we don’t know what to do.”

The TDSB said the school has 10 students graduating from Grade 8 in June 2024 and as a result, the preliminary projection for the upcoming school year would be approximately 20 students.

“With this in mind, enrolment has reached a point where a viable program can no longer be offered. As a result, TDSB staff have made the difficult decision to pause admissions to DVMA,” said TDSB in a statement. “We are now working with the small number of families of existing students to determine the best placement for their children in September 2024.”

In Ontario, there has been a moratorium on closing schools with low enrollment since 2017, but the TDSB is calling this a pause in admissions, not a closure.

Lennox said the TDSB hasn’t given them a chance to save the school.

“It wasn’t fair … We know how to do it. We can do it, but they’re not giving us a chance. They closed the application process for this year, for next year,” said Lennox.

“They should let us help our school. They should at least reopen the applications because we can get more kids to the school. We know how to do and we’ve got plans … we need them to be able to apply and right now, they can’t.”

“We’re all friends, we all know each other and help each other and accept people for who they are. And so it’s a safe space that we all want to be a part of and we don’t want to lose,” said Lennox.

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