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Greater choice in schools urged - Metro US

Greater choice in schools urged

The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies is demanding more freedom for Nova Scotia high school students to choose where they want to study.

According to AIMS manager Bobby O’Keefe, allowing high school students to choose where they want to study benefits not only those who leave their neighbourhood school for another, but the students who stay behind as well.

“It’s a case of the research saying it helps,” said O’Keefe, who co-authored the report. “It keeps away from the schools trying to be all things to all people.”

According to a report released by AIMS yesterday, Atlantic Canada is the only region in the country that does not give students a meaningful choice for where they wish to study.

But Halifax Regional School Board spokesman Doug Hadley said while students are expected to attend the schools in their area by default, anyone can apply to study at other institutions.

“Our policy is that students attend school in the neighborhood where they live or in the area closest to where they live,” said Hadley. “(But) students have the ability to apply to attend schools outside of their area.”

Hadley said students may choose to study at a different school for a variety of reasons — from special programs offered such as French immersion to child-care arrangements.

After students apply, it is up to the individual school’s principal to determine whether the school has enough staff and space to accommodate them, according to Hadley. He said the school board fields “a couple thousand” such applications a year.

But O’Keefe said while students have the ability, school boards could do more to encourage students to choose schools based on the right fit for them.

“There is some leeway,” said O’Keefe. “But it is certainly not an official policy or something that’s advertised where students are encouraged to seek out another choice.”

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