Secondary Program Review
Why is the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) undertaking a Secondary Program Review at this time?
This Review aims to ensure that all students have equitable access to programs and opportunities, as close to home as possible.
Some secondary schools are operating with fewer than 500 students, resulting in limited course choices and limited opportunities for students. The current and projected enrolments at the secondary panel do not support the number of facilities in operation. The current utilization rate of TDSB secondary schools is 78.6%, the equivalent of close to 20,000 surplus pupil places.
What is the vision of this Review?
The vision for the Secondary Program Review includes fewer schools with stronger programming, and increased access to courses that support all pathways, including apprenticeship and the workplace. It also supports the revitalization of neighbourhood secondary schools, many of which, over time, have experienced significant enrolment decline.
Is the TDSB looking to close secondary schools to reduce its budget?
The Secondary Program Review aims to ensure that all students have equitable access to programs and opportunities, as close to home as possible. In order to achieve that, the Board will consider potential consolidation and/or relocation of schools.
Although reducing its budget is not the reason why this Review is being conducted, the consolidation and/or closure of schools would result in savings that can be invested on other areas, including fixing our schools and investing in existing programs.
Will the TDSB be naming specific schools for closure?
No. Although the Secondary Program Review will provide recommendations that may include school consolidations or closures, relocation or consolidation of existing programs, and repurposing of secondary school buildings to address system needs, the recommendations will be made without naming specific schools. The needs of the system will be identified by geographical cluster.
School closures must follow the Ministry of Education’s Pupil Accommodation Review process. Currently, the Ministry has a moratorium on school closures. Once the moratorium is lifted, affected school communities will be notified and invited to participate in a consultation process.
What are the different types of programs currently offered at the TDSB?
Currently, the TDSB has 111 secondary schools including:
- Neighbourhood secondary schools
- Technical and Commercial Schools
- Alternative Schools
- Specialized Schools
- Congregated Special Education Schools
- Adult Education Centres (EdVance programs)
- Specialized programs accommodated within a number of secondary schools
- French Immersion and Extended French programs accommodated within a number of secondary schools
Are there plans to eliminate Specialized Programs?
There are no plans to eliminate Specialized Programs. TDSB staff’s recommendations may include the creation or duplication of Specialized Programs in parts of the city where they do not exist, the consolidation of existing programs to support program viability, and the relocation of programs to ensure equity of access. As well, the Review will look at current admissions practices and criteria to increase equity of access across the system.
Are you expecting changes to the admission and/or audition process at specialized schools?
The TDSB is currently developing a new policy for specialized schools and programs. Consultations have started. For more information, please visit our website: https://www.tdsb.on.ca/High-School/Secondary-Program-Review.
Following the final approval of this new policy, the existing Operational Procedure for Admissions to Specialized Schools and Programs will be updated to reflect the new policy. We expect this procedure to be finalized in the spring of 2022 for implementation in the 2022-2023 school year when students apply for admission in the fall of 2023.
Will Arts programs be impacted?
The TDSB is not considering closing Arts schools. The Secondary Program Review aims to ensure that all students have equitable access to programs and opportunities, as close to home as possible. Currently, some secondary schools are operating with fewer than 500 students, resulting in limited course choices. By increasing enrolment, schools will be able to offer more courses and programs, including Arts. The Arts is an essential part of every student’s education at the TDSB and we are committed to ensuring that all students have access to these programs. To learn more, please visit Spotlight on the Arts.
Will there be an impact on alternative schools?
All secondary schools, including alternative secondary schools, are part of the Review. Students will continue to have the option of attending an alternative secondary school.
The Board of Trustees passed a motion in June 2021 requesting TDSB staff review the admissions practices for alternative schools. A comprehensive Alternative School Review will be initiated during the 2021-2022 school year.
How will the Secondary Program Review impact the commercial and technical boundaries?
A Local Feasibility Team (LFT) has been established to explore options for eliminating technical and commercial boundaries. The team includes affected secondary school principals, superintendents, trustees and other central staff. Public consultations will be conducted as part of the process. Recommendations will be presented to trustees for approval at the end of this process, which is anticipated to conclude before the end of this school year. For more information about this process, please visit the Program Area Review Procedure and the Accommodation and Program Review Policy.
Will high schools keep supporting students with different needs (e.g. ESL, Special Education)?
Yes. We have a diverse student population and we will continue to support all learners throughout our schools.
How long will it take to conduct the Secondary Program Review?
The Secondary Program Review is underway. An interim report was presented to Trustees in May 2020, and a final report in November 2020. As approved by the Board of Trustees in November 2020, the first phase of the Secondary Program Review will focus on the small collegiates that exist throughout the City. A series of Pupil Accommodation Reviews will be identified and reflected in the Board’s upcoming Long-Term Program and Accommodation Strategy this fall. Pupil Accommodation Reviews have been planned to be undertaken over a three year period, which will begin as soon as the Provincial moratorium is lifted.
How long will it take to implement the Secondary Program Review’s recommendations?
It may take 8-10 years for these recommendations to be fully implemented.
Will students be consulted as part of the Secondary Program Review?
Yes, in addition to the feedback we received from the Student Voice consultations that the TDSB conducted in 2016-2017, we are planning to engage students in Grades 7-10 from schools across the TDSB.
Will information about the Secondary Program Review be translated into other languages?
The TDSB website, including the Secondary Program Review page, can be translated into several languages. Visitors to the site can click on the “Translate” button in the top right corner of the screen and select their preferred language. If you would like to receive a survey translated into another language, please contact SecondaryReview@tdsb.on.ca.
Where can I get updated information?
Please continue to visit the Secondary Program Review page for regular updates.
Why is the Optional Attendance policy being reviewed?
Optional attendance is a TDSB process outlined in Policy P013 that allows students to apply to attend schools other than their designated school by home address, including specialized schools.
As a function of declining enrolment over the years, optional attendance has become widespread across the system. Today, the reality is that past practices of choice combined with the harsh reality of declining enrolment have created inequities where students are opting out of certain schools and neighbourhoods in favour of others.
This policy was reviewed in the 2019-2020 school year to ensure consistency with the TDSB’s Mission, Values and Goals Policy, the Equity Policy and the Board’s Multi-Year Strategic Plan. The draft policy went through a 90-day consultation period and the final policy will be brought to the Board’s Governance and Policy Committee in early 2022.
The Optional Attendance policy has not been fully examined or reviewed since its development in 1999 when the TDSB was created. The review of the Optional Attendance policy and its procedures is an important component of the Secondary Program Review.
Will optional attendance be eliminated?
No. The TDSB has no plans to eliminate optional attendance. TDSB staff recommends having three policies. One for optional attendance (regular schools and schools with intensive French programs), one for specialized programs, and another one for alternative schools. All policies and procedures will establish clear application and admission processes, dates, etc.
Once a student has been accepted into the regular program of a high school, will the updated Optional Attendance policy allow the student to stay in that high school until graduation?
Yes. When a student is accepted into a school through Optional Attendance, the student is expected to remain at that school until graduation.
Why are you conducting both the Secondary Program Review and Optional Attendance policy review at the same time?
Only 52% of our students attend their local schools; therefore, any review of programming at the secondary level requires an examination of current policies and procedures related to admission.
How will future changes to optional attendance affect access to French programming?
Changes to the Optional Attendance policy will not affect access to French programming.
French pathways may change as new programs are opened or existing programs are consolidated. Optional attendance to schools that offer French programs outside of the designated French pathway will still be an option to families where the requested school has “Limited” status for optional attendance.
When will the changes to the Optional Attendance policy be implemented?
The policy review process includes several phases. Now that external consultations are nearing an end, TDSB staff will make further revisions as a result of the input received. The revised policy will be submitted to the Board’s Governance and Policy Committee in the spring for review and recommendation. If no changes are required, the revised policy will be submitted to Board for final approval in early 2022. Any changes will begin in the 2022-23 school year for students applying for admission in the fall of 2023.
Specialized Schools and Programs Policy
Why is the TDSB introducing a new policy on Specialized Schools and Programs?
We are committed to our specialized schools and programs and value the variety and opportunity they bring to our students and their school experiences.
As part of our Secondary Program review, we are making updates to current policies and procedures, including the addition of a new policy – the Specialized Schools and Programs policy – which will allow us to be clearer when it comes to admission procedures, practices and timelines, which differ from those in regular schools. Together, this new policy and review will help ensure that more students have access to these programs.
What is the focus of this policy?
The focus of this policy is about improving access to programming for students across the TDSB. It will help in the development of consistent criteria and guidelines for district-wide programming and ensure that all admissions and applications are grounded in equity, inclusion and human rights.
The policy also creates a new distinction between our two types of specialized programs offered in the TDSB:
- District/board-wide specialized programs
- Local specialized programs
Can a student apply to both a district-wide school or program and a local program?
All students can apply to district-wide schools or programs. There’s no catchment area and these programs are available to all students in the City of Toronto. Only if all City of Toronto students have been offered placement will students from outside the city be considered.
For local specialized programs, however, only students registered at the local school can apply. You’ll need to have registered for the school already to be considered for the local specialized program.
Can a student apply to a local specialized program through Optional Attendance?
Schools are identified as either limited or closed. Closed schools cannot accept students through optional attendance. “Limited” schools can accept some students on Optional attendance. A student can apply to “limited” schools through Optional Attendance. However, again, the admission process to the local specialized program will not commence until after the student is registered at the school.
How is this different from the current system of specialized schools or programs?
As we described earlier, there will now be two categories of specialized programs: district-wide or local. Specialized schools and programs that currently exist will be identified as district-wide or local programs. New programs will also be identified as district-wide or local.
Will existing specialized programs be identified as local specialized programs?
Most existing specialized programs will be identified as district-wide programs (e.g., Arts schools, IB programs), available to everyone, while some existing programs may be deemed local specialized programs, available only to students registered in that school (e.g. SHSM, LAWS).
This decision will be made in consultation with the local school principal, the school superintendent and central departments.
Why would an existing specialized program be identified as a Local Specialized Program?
One reason is that some of our schools have more students than can be accommodated. In order to provide the best experience possible for all students, we may need to limit acceptance into some programs.
Also, in some schools, students from the local neighbourhood do not benefit from the specialized program at all because all spaces are given to out-of-area students. By changing the admission process, we create an opportunity for local students to benefit from the program and encourage enrolment in the local school.
When would these changes occur?
No changes will be made for the 2021-22 school year. First, the new policy needs to be finalized. Once the consultation is complete, a final version will be drafted and presented to Trustees. Once approved, an operational procedure will be developed to implement the policy.
Will parents have the option to voice their opinion?
Yes. We would like to hear feedback, recommendations, suggestions and concerns from parents. In addition to participation in the policy consultations, we encourage parents, students, staff and community members to contact us at SecondaryReview@tdsb.on.ca.
I’ve noticed that the Optional Attendance online consultations closed on February. How can I provide feedback?
The 90 day consultation period for the proposed changes to the Optional Attendance policy has ended. We received 623 responses to the online survey and over 200 emails and we have feedback from a variety of meetings and consultation sessions. The draft policy is being reworked and will be presented to Trustees for approval this spring.
Will you share the feedback you received during the consultation process?
Summaries from online and in-person consultations, surveys, etc., will be included as part of the final staff report, which will be presented to the Board of Trustees for approval in the Spring of 2022.
Will parents have additional opportunities to provide feedback before the final staff report is presented to the Board of Trustees for approval?
Members of the community will be able to provide feedback on any proposed changes in advance of the final report that will be presented to trustees in Spring 2022.