Elementary Alternative School Application Process FAQ
What are Elementary Alternative Schools?
Elementary Alternative Schools provide a unique identity and focus in a highly engaged smaller school environment, characterized by community collaboration, inclusivity, choice, and flexibility. There are a total of 19 elementary alternative schools across the TDSB, with admissions being determined based on identified priority groups using a random selection process for the remainder of the spaces available, and a possible waitlist. Of note, 17 of the 19 schools used the centralized application process for September 2023 entry.
Why was there a new application process for elementary alternative schools this year?
Historically, the admissions process for elementary alternative schools was managed by each individual school using their own processes. In 2022 (for September 2023 entry), a new centralized process with an online application was implemented. The new process was designed with the goal of ensuring that participation and enrollment prioritized representation amongst First Nations, Inuit, and Métis students, as well as those from other historically and currently underrepresented communities (racialized students, students who identify as 2SLGBTQIA+, and students with a disability). This change was made with the support of the Alternative Schools Community Advisory Committee and the approval of the Board of Trustees.
How was the process supposed to work and what happened?
The new process for admission to Elementary Alternative Schools involved a random selection process with three stages (outlined below). While the first two stages were successfully completed, an error occurred with step three.
- Available spaces were offered to self-identified Indigenous applicants and applicants who are siblings of current students in specific schools. This occurred as planned.
- Self-identified students from the underrepresented groups were selected randomly to fill 25% of remaining available spaces. This occurred as planned.
- Remaining spaces were then to be determined through a random selection process of all remaining applicants. This is where the error occurred.
A technical error occurred with step three where all remaining applicants should have been merged together to form a pool for computerized random selection but this did not happen. The result was that a group of underrepresented students was not included in the random selection process for the remaining available spaces. When the error was discovered, further placements were halted immediately.
At what point did the TDSB realize there was a problem?
The error was identified following the random selection process and after offer letters had been sent to students. Staff immediately took steps to determine the extent of the error’s impact on the process.
Why were underrepresented students not included in the process?
Self-identified underrepresented applicants were included in the first and second part of the random selection process for elementary alternative school spots and were offered 25% of available spaces. However, those who had not already been offered a seat were supposed to then be combined with the remaining group of students and that did not happen. This meant that these students were not considered for the remaining available spaces.
What is the TDSB doing about it?
To fully redress the error and restore opportunities for students from underrepresented groups, we have taken the following actions:
- After determining that 98 additional spots should have gone to students who self-identify as belonging to underrepresented group(s), we have made 98 seats available to these students.
- In addition to this, 34 more seats across the 17 schools have been offered to students who self-identify as belonging to underrepresented group(s).
- Continuing to place students who self-identify as belonging to underrepresented group(s), based on their waitlist position, in spaces as they become available (should offers be declined by any students) until Friday, June 16.
This will ensure that the number of students from underrepresented groups in elementary alternative schools will slightly exceed original expectations if all students accept the seats which they will be offered.
Why doesn’t the TDSB redo the whole process?
TDSB notified students and families of the outcome of the selection process in March 2023. Following a thorough examination of all options, including redoing the whole process, we have decided on a remedy that restores access to slightly more seats to students from underrepresented groups, as was anticipated in the original selection process.
How can communities trust the TDSB and its processes after this?
We understand families are frustrated and hurt. This should not have happened and the first selection process did not achieve the stated goal. We apologize and hope to rebuild the trust of communities moving forward.
The Board will be undertaking a full review of the entire application process for elementary alternative schools. While the original error was technical in nature, we must determine if the process itself contains systemic barriers to our goals of equity, diversity, and inclusion.
How were you able to find extra spaces?
Staff completed a class-by-class analysis to determine space availability. Additional spaces were created where possible by maximizing available space at some grades within the allowable caps and averages in other schools.
In some situations, spaces were available.
Will the TDSB return to the school-level admissions process next year, given what happened?
The Board will undertake a full review of the entire application process for elementary alternative schools. While the original error was technical in nature, we must determine if the process itself contains systemic barriers to our goals of equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Decisions about the application process for next year will be based on the outcome of the review.
Why can’t every student get a seat?
The policy takes into account that there would always be more interest in accessing alternative schools than the available spaces. That is one of the reasons a random selection process was introduced. As in previous years, the overall number of applicants to elementary alternative schools far exceeds the available spaces even after additional spaces were allocated.
What was the process for offering additional seats to applicants who self-identified as belonging to underrepresented groups? If my child is currently on the waitlist, will they receive a seat?
TDSB cannot guarantee a seat for every applicant who self-identified as belonging to an underrepresented group(s) and is currently on the waitlist. This is because the total number of applications for elementary alternative school programs far exceeded the number of seats available.
Available seats continue to be offered until June 16 to applicants who self-identified as belonging to an underrepresented group(s) based on their waitlist number for the grade and school for which they applied.
If an applicant is on the waitlist at two schools, they will continue to move up each waitlist as seats become available. If a seat becomes available when they are #1 on the waitlist, they will be offered a seat at that specific school and removed from both waitlists.
If the applicant was #1 on the waitlist at two schools, and seats were available at both schools, then the applicant was offered a seat at one school based on a random selection.
How did TDSB redress the mistake that led to applicants from underrepresented groups being left out of part of the lottery process?
Following the initial lottery that took place in March 2023, 132 additional seats across all elementary alternative schools were offered to students who self-identified as belonging to an underrepresented group(s).
Please refer to the information on this web page for an explanation.
Can I see the number of available seats broken down by grade and school, and the number of applicants who self-identify as belonging to an underrepresented group(s) that applied for and were offered these seats?
We appreciate that the community would like greater details about seats offered to applicants who self-identified as belonging to an underrepresented group(s) broken down by specific school and grade. However, TDSB cannot release this information, as we have an obligation to protect the privacy of students.
Due to the small numbers in each grade, individual students who self-identified as belonging to an underrepresented group can be identified. Parents and students provided their identity information for the purpose of applying to an elementary alternative school. They did not provide consent to be identified for the purpose of the Board being transparent in the redress process. It is important to protect the identity of all students as they transition to a new school.
Why is the waitlist process being closed on June 16?
The waitlist process will be closed on June 16 so that schools have enough time to complete the registration process for incoming students before the 2022-2023 school year ends.
Why is my child being removed from the waitlist at this time?
Applicants will be removed from a waitlist when:
- They are offered a seat at an elementary alternative school. If an applicant is on two school waitlists, they will be removed from both.
- There were no available seats at the grade in the elementary alternative school to which they applied.
- A request to withdraw from the application process was received.
If your child has not accepted an offer and is no longer on a waitlist, please register your child at their designated school by home address. To find your school by home address, visit Find Your School on TDSB’s website.