October 22, 2021
Dear Minister Lecce,
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) has been committed to maximizing the use of available resources to ensure the health and safety of students and staff. One of our key areas of focus has been on maintaining physical distance in classrooms through class size reductions and additional supports for learning.
Since the start of the pandemic, our Board has written to the Ministry of Education a number of times to request stable and predictable funding to support our schools and students. Most recently, the letter that I sent on July 15, 2021 asked the Ministry to fully fund school board pandemic costs and reimburse reserves. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I am once again writing to ask that the Ministry provide additional support to the TDSB for the funding loss experienced due to enrolment changes so that smaller class sizes, and the health and well-being of students and staff, can be maintained for the 2021-22 school year.
Like every year, the TDSB’s 2021-22 enrolment projections were prepared a year in advance. While we were hopeful that enrolment would stabilize with the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, we remained conservative in our approach to enrolment projections. Despite this conservative approach, the actual enrolments collected on September 30 show a lower enrolment than projected.
For the 2021-22 school year, elementary enrolment is forecasted to be approximately 3.4% below projection and secondary enrolment is forecasted to be approximately 1.0% below projection. This has had a significant impact on the TDSB’s budget, which was approved in June 2020. We estimate that the Grants for Student Needs revenue will be reduced by $35.5M due to the change in enrolment.
Early indications suggest that the enrolment decline is the result of a number of factors related to the pandemic:
families are keeping their 4 and 5 year old children at home rather than sending them to school;
fewer families are settling or remaining in Toronto; and,
with the ability to work from home, families have relocated to other municipalities.
As the pandemic continues, it is evident that students need stability and support, now more than ever. TDSB Trustees continue to receive communication from parents/guardians regarding their concerns with class sizes. As Trustees, we share in these concerns and want to keep class sizes as low as possible within the funding parameters to support student learning, mental health and well-being, and safety. Therefore, I am requesting that the Ministry release the second half of the Priorities and Partnership Funding to school boards. In addition, I am requesting that the Ministry provide additional funding to offset the increased deficit due to enrolment (above the original 2% deficit school boards were allowed to incur and fund through reserves). Both of these requests would allow the TDSB to maintain smaller class sizes to continue supporting students effectively during the pandemic and to help alleviate public concerns around health and safety in our classrooms.
As this matter is very time sensitive, I look forward to hearing from you by November 1, 2021. As always, I am available to discuss this further with the Ministry if required.
Chair, Toronto District School Board
Cc: The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association; Union and Federation Partners