School enrolment figures could point to future closures

School enrolment figures could point to future closures: “

By Zosia Bielski

Parents got an early sense of whethertheir neighbourhood school is in danger of closing as the TorontoDistrict School Board released Friday a fresh, 95-page list of theenrolment rates of every school in the system.

The inventory includes 92 schools that are less than 60% enrolled (click here for the full report)and might be at risk as the board studies closing undersubscribedschools with a city-wide assessment this June. The first schools likelywill close in September, board chairman John Campbell said.

OnWednesday, the board approved a plan that pushes for consolidatingelementary schools at an ‘optimum’ size of 450 students. It recommends1,200 students for high school and also urges phasing out middleschools.

The goal, Mr. Campbell said, is to save costs andcreate funding for new buildings and programming, all while enrolmentcontinues to decline by 4,000 students annually.

‘It’s aboutdoing something that should have been done, frankly, at amalgamation 10years ago,’ said St. Paul’s trustee Josh Matlow, who voted in favour ofthe plan on Wednesday.

‘We’re going through a process to finallyidentify what buildings are at capacity, what buildings are overcapacity and what buildings are way under enrolled. If you have aschool that has two kids or a thousand kids, you still pay the sameamount to keep the lights on, to have a principal, to maintain it. It’sbetter to serve as many as kids as possible and make good use of thebuilding that you’re paying for.’

Since funding is based on aper-pupil amount, the report also recommends all schools be at 80%capacity in order to get the provincial dollars they need for cleaning,utilities, maintenance and renewal.

Trustees denied that theboard is targeting under enrolled schools for closure. Mr. Campbellsaid poorly enrolled schools with good infrastructure might considerboosting their numbers with new programming and avoid gettting the axe.

Thechairman also said well-populated schools with crumbling infrastructureare no more secure than those that sit half empty: students there mightbe moved to smaller schools that recently sunk capital intorenovations.

‘The objective is to revitalize the programofferings for students in the board and secondly, reinvest in ourbuildings. We can’t continue to let the buildings deteriorate and theenrolments decline,’ said Mr. Campbell.

Trustee Cathy Dandy hasseven schools enrolled at less than 60% in her Toronto-Danforth ward.Although she praised the plan, Ms. Dandy voted against it on Wednesday,arguing against school closures as the only option.

Shepointed to Britain and the United States, where boards have taken toselling off their excess space to other sectors that serve children andyouth, such as mental
health agencies and dental care, for a ‘one-stop shopping’ community hub.

‘Ifyou talk to parents of children who are struggling, one of the biggestissues is that the services are scattered,’ Ms. Dandy said.

‘Wehave all this so-called excess space, unfunded space. It is analbatross around our neck. The old method was to go immediately toclosure and we probably will need to close some of our space. But a lotof that space could be looked as valuable public space.’

National Post

(Via National.)

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