school enrolment rising in TO

school enrolment rising in TO

    After a dramatic drop of more than 20,000 students over the past decade, Toronto public school board enrolment is picking up and expected grow by almost 40,000 by 2035.

If the enrolment projections prove accurate, by that time the board will technically have enough students to fill all of its current elementary schools.

“I think there’s a sense now of finally, we’ve hit the bottom and that curve is starting to increase. We are actually in a position of starting to recover what we’ve lost,” said Daryl Sage, director of strategy and planning for the Toronto District School Board, who recently presented trustees with a report on enrolment.

The decline in the number of elementary students has now stopped, he said, with 171,750 students in 2010, and a projected 189,000 in 2020 and 203,500 in 2035.

“We see two things contributing to an increase in elementary enrolment: that would be an increase in birth rates, combined with the implementation of full-day learning.”

At the secondary level, enrolment is expected to continue dropping until the mini-boom in elementary hits high schools, around 2019.

By 2035, the board predicts 94,000 secondary students; today there are about 87,410.

City of Toronto population projections also indicate the number of children, ages 5 to 19, is on the rise.

Sage said immigration will in part help enrolment, although Toronto itself will continue to lag behind other regions in Greater Toronto because of the higher cost of living.

And even though enrolment will meet total school capacity, there will be pockets where it lags, and areas where schools are overcrowded. Combined with many aging school buildings, it won’t mean the end of school closings, he added.

More students, however, will mean more funding dollars from the province.

Demographics expert David Foot — co-author of the Boom, Bust & Echo best-sellers — said he’s not convinced the public board will see any huge increases.

While Foot, an economics professor at the University of Toronto, hadn’t seen the board’s enrolment report, he said other than full-day kindergarten, numbers likely won’t rise for at least five years.

That’s because the children of boomers, who are now in their late 20s, are just starting to have families and it will take some time before their children are school-aged.

“By the middle of the next decade, I’d expect enrolments to grow again, but even then not dramatically,” Foot said, calling the board numbers optimistic.

Immigration will not reap many new students as families now tend to settle outside the city, he said. Even the birth rate won’t see a huge boost in numbers, because Quebec is driving that increase.

“The school boards resisted for a long, long time that enrolments would decline,” Foot said, adding “there’s not a good history here.”

Provincially, elementary and secondary school enrolment stood at 1,890,698 in 2010-11, and is projected to be 1,876,779 this school year. It is expected to decline by 1.8 per cent by 2014-15, with the largest declines in the northern Ontario.

Meanwhile, Toronto’s Catholic board isn’t expecting any huge increase in enrolment in the near future, saying full-day kindergarten will keep elementary enrolment stable, or slightly up.

However, Angelo Sangiorgio, the board’s associate director of planning and facilities, said secondary school enrolment has bucked the trend and been climbing in recent years. Total high school enrolment now sits at 31,456.

School enrolment on the rise in Toronto  October 12, 2011 thestar.com  KRISTIN RUSHOWY