TDSB enrolment expected to drop by 1,500 students next school year
Revised sex-ed curriculum not likely a factor in enrolment, TDSB spokesperson says
Toronto public schools are expected to have about 1,500 fewer students next school year most likely due to changing demographics and the high cost of living in the city, the Toronto District School Board says.
Ryan Bird, spokesperson for the TDSB, said Tuesday the board projects that enrolment for the 2016-2017 school year will be 243,500 students. Current TDSB enrolment is roughly 245,000 students. Most of the decline will be in secondary schools.
"For a number of years, we have seen declining enrolment, particularly at the secondary level," he said. "We'll never know exactly for sure, but we believe it is changing demographics plus the cost of living in Toronto. That's an educated guess at to why it is changing."
In the 2014-2015 school year, the board had roughly 250,000 students.
Bird said enrolment is projected to decline at the secondary level by 1,487 students and at the elementary level by 42 students.
Based on board analysis of demographic patterns, age of students and grade retention, the board is projecting that elementary school enrolment will remain relatively stable next school year.
Ontario's revised health and physical education curriculum, which includes changes to sexual education, is not expected to have much if any impact on enrolment at the TDSB next school year, he said.
"At this point, we don't think it will be as large an issue as it was last year," Bird said.
Last September, he said some public schools experienced a drop in enrolment as parents pulled their children from the system, home schooled them or put them in private institutions over opposition to the revised curriculum.
Bird said the top five schools that experienced a difference between projected and actual enrolment in the current school year were: Thorncliffe Park Public School, Kingsview Village Junior School, Valley Park Middle School, North Kipling Junior Middle School and Chalkfarm Public School.
For example, Thorncliffe Park Public School,which runs from Grade 1 to Grade 5, lost 90 students in September and two Grade 1 classes were collapsed. Its enrolment is currently 1,340 and Bird said its population has rebounded over the school year. Its projected enrolment is 1,297 students.
Thorncliffe Park Principal Jeff Crane held information sessions with more than 650 parents from October to December 2015 to explain the changes to the sex-ed curriculum.
"In a number of cases, once parents attended the information sessions, their children returned to school," Bird said.
The school is now offering an alternative version of the sex ed curriculum in Grade 1 to accommodate religious beliefs of certain families.
Bird said enrolment numbers can fluctuate and it is possible that the board may not experience as large a drop in enrolment as projected.
Bird said the TDSB at one time had 300,000 students.