With enrolment plummeting by 4,000 students a year, Toronto’s public board should close some small and half-empty schools and aim for elementary schools with at least 450 pupils and high schools with no fewer than 1,000, says a landmark report before trustees tonight.
The cost of operating 550 schools — 91 of them half-empty — is “the largest financial albatross around our necks,” says Toronto District School Board chair John Campbell.
Only by shutting some down can the board free up money to open new schools in boom areas such as Scarborough and offer more course choices for high school students, says the General Asset and Program Planning (GAPP) Working Group Report.
But closing schools, even those with declining numbers, is sure to provoke a firestorm from public school parents in Toronto, who have not faced school closures since the board closed eight schools in 2000 and another one in 2001.
While the report says “there is no compelling research” for elementary or high schools of a particular size, it cites “compelling arguments” in terms of cost, programming and schools’ environmental “footprint.”
It also says that the “current model of secondary programs is not meeting the needs of students.”
But such sweeping change will mean fewer small elementary and high schools, and fewer middle schools, some warn.
“This is more for efficiency than efficacy,” said trustee Bruce Davis, who says there’s no evidence schools with 450 students perform better academically. He said the proposals don’t seem to consider the fact that smaller schools can have a positive effect on behaviour.