Future of London Ont., vocational school unknown – London

Concern about the future of London’s vocational school grows as enrolment numbers for B. Davison Secondary stopped for the last two years.

A Facebook group and online petition to save the school say the Thames Valley District School Board is planning to close the school because there are no grade 9 and 10 students.

“Over the last two years, TVDSB has actively set Davison to fail by not allowing educators to promote the programming that the school has to offer, refusing to allow parents to register their children and shutting down programs at the school,” organizers of the group to save the school said in a statement.

“When parents have called to register their students, parents have reported that they were advised there was a ‘lack of interest’ and ‘programming at Davison would not be offered’ for those entering grade nine over the last two years.”

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The petition set up by organizers has collected over 470 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.

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B. Davison Secondary School at 785 Trafalgar Street was formed in 2014 after the amalgamation of the former Sir George Ross and Thames Secondary Schools.

One of the area’s only vocational schools, it offers students programs and supports to enter the workplace directly after graduating. The school focuses on trades and offers courses in hospitality, welding, construction, auto mechanics, horticulture, and cosmetology.

A statement from Jeff Pratt, associate director of TVDSB, denies that the board is planning to close the school.

TVDSB has confirmed that over the last two years no new students have been admitted but attributes that to a drop in enrolment, a point that parents who have tried to enrol their students will argue.

Parent of two, Michelle Grech tells Global News it was a fight to get her son Liam into the school. He didn’t start until mid-way through grade 10.

“He immediately felt like he belonged because everyone that attended might not have had the same learning disorder or the same disabilities, but everyone was in the same boat,” Grech said.

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Michelle Grech’s son Liam on his first year of school at B. Davison Secondary School in London Ont.

Supplied by Michelle Grech

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She says both her sons have learning disabilities and struggled in the mainstream education system with big class sizes, but all that changed for her old son, who graduated in 2021.

“He felt safe in his learning environment, which he never had, and it helped him want to graduate and do the best that he can.”

Pratt states that the TVDSB Secondary School Attendance Area Review will begin during the 2022-2023 school year, and the public will have the chance to provide input.

“Thames Valley’s ‘rethink secondary learning’ initiative has been helping to maximize program offerings in all of our secondary schools and allow for more opportunities for all our students in their home schools.”

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But for parents and former students, the value of the school goes beyond the courses offered, offering a community and different learning environment.

“It gives them a sense of belonging. The teachers that are there because the classrooms are small, they give to the kids that attend purpose not only as they have education, but help them boost their confidence, help them see, you can learn – look, you can do this,” Grech said.

“My son made connections that he had never made in all of his elementary school and then even trying to get into high school.”

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Renne Mersereau attended Thames Secondary School before the amalgamation, graduating in 1995, and her son Michael just graduated in 2020.

“I have a learning disability, so I have issues learning and a hard time focusing. So it helped me focus and actually get decent grades and graduate because I hated school,” Mersereau said.

She tells Global News it was not until she switched schools that she found a place that worked for her, and she started to love school, adding the same was true for her son Michael.

“He was really struggling in high school to the point he was about to drop out. B.D. accepted him to come into the school, and helped him get the grades he needed and the education he needed and actually graduate high school. If it was not for them he’d be a dropout,” Michael said.

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Mersereau was hoping that her middle son, who is about to enter high school in a year would be admitted, but was upset to find they currently are not admitting students.

“I think they should just keep it open and take the kids that need hands-on, or kids with similar learning disabilities that can’t focus in big classes and that need the extra support,” she said. “In regular high schools, they’re doing those programs, but it’s a bigger class, and this school offers smaller class sizes and more one-on-one help and understanding to the kids that need the tech help.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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