Enrolment at Grand Erie District School Board secondary schools is continuing to decrease.
A report prepared by Rafal Wyszynski, superintendent of businesses and treasurer for the board, said 66 per cent of capacity at the board’s 13 high schools was used in 2019, compared to 69 per cent in 2018. Enrolment at the high schools decreased to 7,885 from 8,133.
At the same time, enrolment at the board’s elementary schools increased to to 18,347 in 2019 from 18,021 in 2018, with use of the schools’ capacity increasing to 89 per cent from 86 per cent.
Dunnville Secondary is the board’s most under-used school with 36 per cent of the student space being used. In 2019, there were 352 students enrolled at the school, which has capacity for 703.
In Norfolk, Delhi District High School is operating at 95 per cent student capacity, followed by Valley Heights in Langton at 59 per cent, Simcoe Composite at 58 per cent and Waterford District at 58 per cent.
In Brantford, Brantford College Institute is at 87 per cent capacity, followed by North Park Collegiate at 75 per cent, and Pauline Johnson Collegiate at 56 per cent. Tollgate Tech Skills Centre is operating at 42 per cent student capacity, and Paris District High School at 88 per cent.
“In the past, when a moratorium on school closures did not exist, the Grand Erie District School Board actively participated in pupil accommodation reviews in order to right size its capacity with pupil enrolment,” said Wyszynski.
School closings were stopped by the previous provincial Liberal government in 2017 – a moratorium that has so far been upheld by the current Conservative government.
Provincewide, hundreds of schools have closed or merged in recent decades, the result of shifting demographics and smaller families. Roughly 300 Ontario schools were slated for closing leading up to the moratorium, and about 100 of them have been shuttered.
In Southwestern Ontario, 12 schools boards have had to grapple with the expense of about 55,000 empty student spaces.
At a recent Grand Erie board meeting, trustee Rita Collver asked that data be compiled on how much it costs the board to operate secondary schools with low enrolment.
Trustee Don Werden questioned whether the board is providing adequate programming in schools with low enrolment.
Werden suggested the board send a letter to Education Minister Stephen Lecce, stressing that the moratorium on school closings needs to be cancelled.