As student enrolment declines in northern Ontario, school boards are under pressure to find ways to work together.

In Markstay, just east of Sudbury, French public school students go to school in the same building as English Catholic students.

Le Conseil scolaire public du Grand Nord de l'Ontario education director Marc Gauthier said they have arranged this “for the good of the community, because of declining enrolment, [and] because you want to give services in small communities. You have to build up those partnerships. You have no choice.”

The English Catholic board only had “about 12 students enrolled,” he continued. “So if they didn't have space in our building, they would have to go in another building and that would be very hard for them to have a school.”

There are other examples scattered around the north where boards have struck partnerships.

But there are dozens more examples where schools could combine if one takes into consideration current enrolment numbers.

New reality for boards

And Minister of Education Liz Sandals is starting to force the issue.

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When two different school boards work together, their projects will be given funding priority, Education Minister Liz Sandals says.

“What I announced in this year's capital grants — that is, grants for new schools and additions — is that we would give priority to projects that are put forward by boards that are working together,” she said.

“So when two different school boards work together, their projects will be given funding priority.”

Boards that provide education in Espanola are already experiencing this new reality.

After receiving three separate proposals for new schools or renovations, the ministry asked boards to work out a better solution.

The boards re-submitted proposals earlier this year. The Ministry told CBC News a decision has now been made for Espanola, and a public announcement is expected in the near future.

CBC News reported yesterday more than 30 per cent of the seats in northern Ontario schools are empty. The province expects to spend roughly $300 million dollars on top up funding to maintain and operate under capacity schools in 2013-2014.


See map below of student enrolment by English school across northern Ontario. The map has been populated based on 2012 data provided by the Ministry of Education.

See map below of student enrolment by French school across northern Ontario. The map has been populated based on 2012 data provided by the Ministry of Education.