London Muslims buy vacant school

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SHAFAQNA –

London’s Muslim community has scooped up a closed public school and plans to open a new Islamic school in its place.

The current school has outgrown its location at the London Muslim Mosque on Oxford Street West, where about 300 kids study every day.

Over 100 pupils are on the private school’s waiting list.

The school offers full-time day and weekend classes for grades 1 to 8.

“We’ve reached (capacity) for every grade up to Grade 4, we have two classes of each of those grades, and in four year’s we’ll have two classes of every grade up to Grade 8,” said Rob Osman, vice-chair of the board of directors at the mosque and the school.

The board has bought what used to be Huron Heights French immersion public school, at 1245 Michael St., in the city’s east end.

“This will be a big departure for us. It’s bittersweet,” said Osman. “The kids right now go to school by the mosque, they see their identity as a Canadian and as Muslims every day. There’s a benefit to seeing your faith being practised every day.”

The London Islamic School hopes to move in to Huron Heights French immersion in September, though it’s possible the move could take longer. The former Thames Valley District school board school was closed in June 2014 and its 400 pupils moved to a new, larger French immersion school called Louise Arbour French immersion, where Ross Secondary School used to be.

When it closed, Huron Heights was bursting at the seams, with 11 portables on the site to accommodate growing interest in French immersion.

The fact the school is next to Stronach Arena is a plus, Osman said.

“There is a lot of green space and a lot of areas we can use to help with character development,” he said.

Pupils at the London Islamic School study the Ontario curriculum, for the most part, though not some parts, like the sex education curriculum.

Graduates go on to public or Catholic high schools in the London area or to al Taqwa, London’s Islamic school, which also has high school classes.

Huron Heights can accommodate about 300 pupils.

When the Islamic classes will start depends on the closing date on the sale, the shape of the building and how much furniture and other materials have to be bought for the school.

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