Education Minister Liz Sandals says a solution for low enrolment could be to have a partnership between school boards. (Kenneth Armstrong/CBC)

Low occupancy is a big problem for many schools in northeastern Ontario, according to numbers gathered by Radio-Canada on how many students are enrolled in French schools in the province.

The French school system as a whole in the province has a capacity of 140,000 students. But according to documentation from the ministry of Education, almost a third of that space is not used.

In northern Ontario in particular, many French schools are almost empty.

Several have less than 20 students.

Minister of Education Liz Sandals said it's not just a French school problem.

“If you actually look at the data, the French schools may actually have a higher percentage of enrolment than some of the English schools.”

A solution could be to have a partnership between school boards, she noted.

“We are simply saying that two schools could share the same space,” Sandals said. “There are boards where we are funding more empty seats than actual seats that have kids.”

There are four different school boards in Ontario — Catholic and public, both in French and English.