On April 2, 2020, we hosted a web chat to connect with the community about the draft Specialized Schools and Programs
Policy. More than 150 people participated and more than 70 questions were asked! We didn't get to answer
everything in the hour, so below are the answers to the rest of the questions. Many of them were similar, so we have
grouped them together and by themes.
Read the transcript of the
whole web chat.
Why is this policy being developed?
the policy review schedule that is approved by the Board of Trustees and is revised on a regular basis.
View the latest policy review schedule.
This new Specialized Schools and Programs policy is being developed to improve clarity when it comes to admission
procedures, practices and timelines which differ from those in regular schools. This new policy, which supports the
Secondary Program Review, will help more students have access to
Why is a policy necessary when the TDSB already has a strong system of specialized programs that are all
We were aware of the varied practices in many of our schools and programs and recognized that things needed to
change in our system to improve learning outcomes for all students and address the disparities that impact our
students. To address this, we created the Enhancing Equity Task Force which identified that some disparities
exist between and within our schools and, while benefiting some students, may have inadvertently resulted
in inequity for others.
One important way of addressing these disparities is through the development of policy that creates consistency and
ensures equity. For specialized schools and programs, that means an opportunity – and a need – 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 more students have access to these programs.
Although our programs are in high demand, it is essential that the TDSB ensure equitable learning environments for
each and every student. This means ensuring that all students have access – the same access – to learning,
opportunities, resources and tools to succeed while keeping our high standard of excellence for all students.
Does the TDSB see these measures as cost saving or equity to provide this equitable
This policy supports equity of access and at the same time promotes the concept of local neighbourhood schools
which can have strong programs for local students.
How will the recent policy recommendations on Optional Attendance impact students wanting to attend a
district-wide specialized program?
District-wide specialized programs will no longer fall under the Optional Attendance policy. This new policy
allows for two separate processes, potentially with two different timelines.
Is Gifted programming part of this policy?
No, Gifted programs are not Specialized Programs; they come under the umbrella of Special
Are you eliminating Elite Athlete programs?
No, we are not eliminating Elite Athlete programs.
District Wide vs. Local Access
Will there be an effort to expand district-wide specialized programs to parts of the city where students
currently do not have access?
A key component of the Secondary Program Review is to examine the programming offered in secondary schools and
identify gaps. Based on feedback that we are receiving through surveys, consultations and feedback, we will
explore the expansion of new programs in parts of the city where they do not exist. Ultimately, want to ensure
that every school offers a wide range of programming for all students.
Can students in an existing specialized program change to a local specialized program if a new program is
introduced in their designated school?
We support the concept of the neighbourhood school and want students to see their local school as a first
choice. Students can return to their designated school at the appropriate in-take opportunity (start of school
year, semester change). Again, the admission process to the local specialized program will coincide with the
course selection process.
Will you have input from the community if you decide to change from a district-wide specialized program
to a local specialized program?
Yes, we will work with the local school principal and superintendent to provide an appropriate opportunity for
input from staff, students and parents. Procedural aspects of this decision will be outlined once the
Operational Procedure is drafted, which follows approval of the policy.
Where can I find information about in-person consultations with various TDSB groups and communities,
We follow a Policy Development Work Plan when developing a new policy. The Work Plan for this policy can be
summary of the consultations that have taken place can be found in the Secondary Program Review update reports
to Committee of the Whole, are posted
Upcoming consultation opportunities are shared in a number of ways: the TDSB website, email invitations to specific
groups, social media, and newsletters from the Board, schools and Trustees.
How can students and school staff at impacted schools
share their opinions?
We encourage all stakeholders to complete our online survey.
The survey was also shared directly with all school councils, principals, and Trustees, with the expectation that
they share it directly with their communities. Additional consultation opportunities will be scheduled and
information will be shared through the same channels.
Will another draft of the policy for review be shared before it is implemented?
We continue to receive input from parents, students, teachers, staff and the community, which will inform the
next iteration of the policy.
The draft policy will then be presented to Trustees at the Governance and Policy Committee. Members of the public are
welcome to bring forward issues and concerns they have through a delegation, which is addressing a committee of the
Board of Trustees (by speaking or submitting a written statement). Learn more about
Who can I speak to if I am concerned with the direction TDSB is moving towards?
The public is always welcome to raise concerns with their local Trustee. As well, in addition to completing
the online survey, feedback on this specific policy can be sent to
Will the admissions criteria differ for district-wide specialized programs and local specialized
programs? Will district-wide programs have a set of rules they would need to follow to match with other
schools offering similar programs? How would that apply to local programs?
It is important to have common admissions criteria for schools with the same or similar programs. For example,
admission to the International Baccalaureate program should be the same, regardless of where the program is
offered. When the policy is approved, staff will work with schools offering the same district-wide program to
develop common and consistent admissions criteria for each program type (STEM, Arts, Elite Athlete,
Admission criteria to local specialized programs will be established at each school, in consultation with the school
superintendent and central staff.
Will this new policy change the audition requirements to apply to a Music program at Arts-focussed
schools? And if so, won't that water down the high level of excellence being offered at that
The Board will consider each program type (STEM, Arts, Elite Athlete etc.) to develop consistent admissions
criteria and practices. This is not about taking students without skill – this is about access and opportunity,
and to see potential in a different way.
Will students accepted into a specialized secondary school for September 2020 under Optional Attendance
No, they will not be affected as no changes are being made for the 2020-21 school year. For students in the
2021-22 school year and beyond, admission to these programs will not be addressed as part of the Optional
Attendance policy. District-wide specialized programs will continue to accept students who live outside of the
school’s attendance areas for those specific programs.
How can a central department determine acceptance to a program?
Central departments will not be deciding who is accepted into a program. This decision will remain at the
local level. However, the admissions criteria and practices will be consistent in schools with the same or
similar programs. We will work actively with each school to develop admissions criteria and an approach that
meets the needs of the programs.
How will future students living outside of Toronto be impacted? Will they still be permitted into
As stated in the draft policy, for district-wide specialized programs, first priority is given to students who
live in the City of Toronto. Students residing outside of the City of Toronto will only be considered after all
applicants from the City of Toronto have been offered a placement.
For local specialized programs, program admission for students will begin after the student has registered at that
school. Students from outside of the City of Toronto can apply to a school with a local program if there is space in
the school, but admission into the local specialized program will still not begin until after registration is
Will students who are not TDSB students be allowed to apply to specialized programs?
Yes, these programs are open to all students who reside in the City of Toronto, even if the students are not
currently attending a TDSB school. However, students who reside outside of the City of Toronto will only be
considered after all Toronto students have been offered a placement.
Questions related to the Secondary Program Review
Are we being short-sighted by closing schools?
The Ministry of Education announced a moratorium on school closures in June 2017, and this moratorium is still
The Board has received special permission to proceed with a single Pupil Accommodation Review involving York Memorial
Collegiate Institute and George Harvey Collegiate Institute. This process was approved after the tragic fire
that occurred at the York Memorial building in May 2019.
The Secondary Program Review will consider options for future school consolidations to address the surplus capacity
that is projected to continue to exist in parts of the City. With 20,000 surplus places in secondary schools,
and with some secondary schools operating with fewer than 500 students, consolidations will be part of the
recommendations included in the final Secondary Program Review report.