Thunder Bay schools grapple with low enrolment
School boards in Thunder Bay and across the northwest continue to struggle with declining enrolment.
Data obtained by CBC News shows that more than one in three seats in northern Ontario classrooms are empty — far more than the provincial average of 12 per cent.
David Tamblyn, education director with the Superior-Greenstone District School Board, said his schools have been hit hard.
"We've had a dramatic decline in enrolment over the past 10 years," said Tamblyn, "And it's had a huge impact on our schools throughout the district."
Tamblyn said seven schools in his board have fewer than 50 students in them.
"Those are extremely small schools," he said, "Whereas before, some of those schools were up in the hundreds."
One school in the Superior-Greenstone board, Caramat Public School, doesn’t have any students, and will likely be closed.
It's not just rural school boards facing declining enrolment; the Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board has closed two schools over the past decade.
Associate director Tom Mustapic said all boards in the region have to deal with declining enrolment “in a planned, orderly way ... so that it has the least impact possible on staff, on students, on families and so on."
Even though two Thunder Bay Catholic schools, Our Lady of Charity and St. Ann, are less than half full, there are no plans for more closures, Mustapic said.
"On an overall basis, our board is in good shape in terms of enrolment. And, you know, it's not as easy as looking at one school and saying you should close it, or you need to do something with it,” he said.
“You need to have some solutions available to you as well."
One public school in Thunder Bay, Sherbrooke, is also below 50 per cent capacity.
See map below for enrolment data for most schools in Thunder Bay and the northwest: