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The Toronto District School Board has proposed dissolving the admission boundaries for its technical and commercial high schools in a bid to expand access to students across the city.

As it currently stands, students who live within certain large boundaries can automatically enroll in the board’s six technical and commercial schools, including Northern Secondary School and Danforth Collegiate and Technical Institute, if they commit to the programs. This means families with certain home addresses can choose to send their children to the regular secondary school in their designated catchment area or be considered in-district for a technical or commercial school within an even larger boundary.

In other areas of the city, however, students don’t have that advantage. They are generally guaranteed a spot in their local secondary school but must apply to attend a technical or commercial school.

If the proposal from the board’s staff is approved, the boundaries for technical and commercial schools will be eliminated, giving all students an opportunity to apply for a spot. It would take effect September, 2025.

“There’s no reason why we have some parts of the city that have an option to go to five or six schools where most of the city only has one,” said Dan Castaldo, the TDSB’s senior manager of planning.

The technical and commercial schools were established under the old Toronto school board, prior to the amalgamation of several boards in the late 1990s. The schools were intended to stream students into vocational programming instead of an academic stream. Mr. Castaldo said that, years later, these legacy boundaries still exist for the schools even though streaming, for the most part, is no longer a board practice. The six schools now offer academic opportunities as well as an array of technical courses.

“This is one of those incremental steps that we’re able to undertake now to try to open up access to some different opportunities for parts of the city that historically haven’t had that,” he said.

The shift is part of a wider strategy to support strong neighbourhood high schools and provide more equitable access to programs. More recently, the board overhauled its admission process for its nearly 40 specialized schools and programs, which range from the arts to athletics, sciences and math; a new centralized admission process means students no longer audition, present portfolios or write entrance exams. A lottery is used when demand exceeds space.

Under the proposed changes to eliminate technical and commercial school boundaries, four schools – Central Technical School, Central Toronto Academy, Danforth Collegiate and Western Technical-Commercial School – would have no catchment boundary and admissions would be managed centrally. Students would be able to take technical courses along with their academic classes.

Northern and Victoria Park Collegiate Institute would still have their smaller designated catchment areas and continue to draw neighbourhood students. Their wider technical and commercial boundary would be dissolved, so students outside the immediate area would need to apply for any available spaces.

Mr. Castaldo said the changes may not result in a “monumental shift” in terms of attendance, but they would provide opportunities for students in other parts of the city.

“All we’re saying is that if you have an interest in attending one of these schools, then you should be able to apply. And we’re not restricting that [access] to only those families that reside in these legacy areas,” he said.

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