With more than 170 schools across Ontario possibly on the chopping block, an educational advocacy group wants to see some of them turned into child and family resource centres.

Annie Kidder, executive director of People for Education, told a Monday news conference that the problem is being driven by declining enrolment due to a lower birth rate.

"I always simplistically say it's because my mother had five children and I had two," he said. "And basically yes, it's birth rate. That's why it's happening all over the country."

By 2012, there are expected to be 140,000 fewer school-age children in Ontario than there were in 2002.

For that reason, another 163 schools are under review for possible closure.

"This represents the largest increase in school closings since the late 1990's when, between 1999 and 2004, school boards reacted to education funding cuts by closing over 250 schools across the province," the group said in a report posted to its website.

However, Education Minister Kathleen Wynne said her ministery doesn't have a firm count of how many schools are on the chopping block.

The only growth areas in the GTA are in the 905 belt. In Toronto, where enrolment has declined by 12 per cent since 2002, 35 schools are under review, the group said.

Some school closings make "economic and educational sense." This is particularly true when there are other schools close by, or if closure makes the money available to replace two smaller, run-down schools with one new one.

However, in rural areas, closure can harm community viability. In urban ones, closure can lead to the loss of a potential neighbourhood hub.

The group argued that the province funding formula was developed in 1997 and is closely tied to enrolment. But in 1997-98, the average elementary school had 365 students, compared to 310 today.

Space that could be considered "empty" under the formula could include design and technology rooms or a community kitchen.

In some other provinces, funding is being provided to allow schools to provide community services. Such services can included:

  • early learning or child-care programs
  • space for non-profit organizations
  • health clinics
  • sports programs
  • family resource or seniors' centres
  • branch libraries

"Ontario needs a vision of schools that recognizes them as assets to the whole community and places where families can find a range of community and social services to meet their needs," the report said.

A number of reports have called for the establishment of schools as community hubs, "but there is no overarching policy or funding to ensure this happens," it said.

People For Education makes the following recommendations

  • change the funding formula so that per-pupil allocations for staff are updated to match 2009 school sizes
  • develop a process to have municipalities and school boards work together so that school openings and closings are part of a broader plan
  • push ahead with new rules to allow the sharing of school spacing

"Children and families are like an ecosystem, that health is connected to education, is connected to poverty, is connected to housing, that mental health is connected to youth engagement, physical health affects kids ability to succeed. All these things are connected but we still don't have a framework," Kidder said.

But Wynne said that's what her ministry is trying to work towards, although Progressive Conservative education critic Elizabeth Witmer wondered whether that was affordable at this time.

"The problem is this government has refused to consider this whole issue of whether or not schools need to be closed or whether we can afford to keep them open," she said. "Yes, I support the idea of schools as community hubs, but can we afford it?"

With a report from CTV Toronto's Galit Solomon and files from The Canadian Press

Toronto schools under review or slated for closure

Alpha 2 Alternative

Arlington M.S.

Blacksmith P.S.

Briar Hill

Brock Jr. P.S.

Brooks Road

Brookview M.S.

Cedarbrook Jr. P.S.

Cedarvale C.S.

Charles E. Webster Jr. P.S.

Charles Gordon Sr. P.S.

Chief Dan George


Dovercourt Jr. P.S.

Driftwood P.S.

Eastview Jr. P.S.

Eglinton Jr.

Fairbank M.S.

Gosford P.S.

Heron Park Jr. P.S.


Highland Heights Jr. P.S.

Hodgson Sr.

Humewood C.S.

John Diefenbaker

John McCrae Sr. P.S.

Joseph Brant Sr. P.S.

J.R. Wilcox C.S.

Kane M.S.

Keelsdale Jr. P.S.

Kent Sr. P.S.

Knob Hill Jr. P.S.

Lynnwood Heights.Jr. P.S.

Maurice Cody

McCowan Road Jr. P.S.

Meadowvale Sheppard Site

Pauline Jr. P.S.

Peter Secor Jr. P.S.

Pringdale Gardens Jr. P.S.

Rawlinson C.S.

Shoreham P.S.

Silverthorn Jr. P.S.

Spectrum Alternative

Timberbank Jr. P.S.

West Preparatory

William G Miller Jr. P.S.

St. Josophat

St. Teresa

Christ the King

Brother Edmund Rice C.S.S.

Blessed Trinity

St. Antoine Daniel

St. Cyril

St. Edward

St. Henry

St. Maximilan Kolbe

St. Sylvester

St. Gerard Majella

St. Philip Neri

Neil McNeil

Cardinal Newman

Jean Vanier

Notre Dame

St Patrick

Source: People for Education