Thank you for considering Equinox Holistic Alternative School for your child. We know it may feel overwhelming deciding where to enroll your child in school, especially if it’s your first one in JK. Hopefully the Parent Council can answer a few questions that you may have about the application process, lottery, waitlists, and overall how our school works. Of course if you have any other questions, you are always more than welcome to email the school administration at equinox@tdsb.on.ca.

How is Equinox different from my regular local home school?

Equinox follows the Ontario Ministry of Education curriculum; however, unlike other schools, our teachers draw from a range of holistic philosophies and approaches when teaching it, such as Waldorf, Reggio Emilia, and Montessori. All of these different methods integrate hands-on strategies and problem-solving activities into daily teaching practices. Furthermore, they creatively integrate subjects across different disciplines teaching the whole child—head, hands, and heart. Through this holistic approach with a focus on nature, Equinox’s students come to appreciate and value the relevance of learning and grow to understand its applications to self, society and their environment.

For example, the JK/SK students learned about gravity by rolling different sized pumpkins down a hill at Monarch Park in the fall. The Grade 2 students learned multiplication through songs with movements, math games, working with ten-and-single blocks, drawing on graph paper, and standard number lines. The grade 7/8 students created this award-winning WaterDocs Water Challenge Video.

Another difference is that Equinox classes go on numerous educational field trips almost bi-weekly. JK/SK students go twice a week on walking trips. Students also help direct their own learning with the guidance of their teachers. Our school offers fantastic mentoring and support amongst our students, teachers, staff and parent community.

Those are just a few of the differences at Equinox.

How do I see the school?

Equinox is not able to accommodate visit requests at this time. We receive a large number of requests to tour and observe the school but due to staff time constraints, and also to maintain the integrity of the program and the privacy of our students, we have had to limit the number. We will be hosting an Open House on Wednesday, January 24, 2018 at 6 pm in the school gym. All are welcome to attend and experience Equinox first-hand. No registration is required to attend the Open House.

How much does it cost to attend Equinox?

As a Toronto District School Board (TDSB) alternative elementary school, Equinox is absolutely free to attend and open to all Toronto residents – TDSB service area map.  Please keep in mind that TDSB does not provide transportation to alternative schools as they are optional attendance.

Click here to view all of TDSB’s 19 alternative elementary schools.

When may I enrol my child at Equinox for Junior Kindergarten?

Junior Kindergarten (JK) admissions are based on a lottery process at our school due to limited space available. You may apply for JK the year your child turns four. Equinox will accept JK applications for the 2018-2019 school year between January and February 16th, 2018. So, if your child will be turning four between January 2018 and December 2018, you may apply for the JK program at Equinox.

Equinox will NOT accept your child’s application, nor add them to our waitlists, if they are under four years old.

How many JK spots are available?

Each year Equinox has 20 JK spots. Some of those spots will be given to siblings of children who have already been accepted and are attending Equinox. We try our best to keep families together all within one school if possible. The remaining JK spots are available in the lottery. If more then 20 siblings apply for JK at Equinox, then a lottery will occur with siblings only. Any names drawn will receive a spot, the rest will go on a waitlist.

What is the process for the JK lottery and waitlist?

A random number software is used to rank order the student names in the JK lottery. As each number is generated by the software program, the associated student name will be entered on the list. All students in the JK lottery will be placed on the master list. A line will be drawn on the master list after the student name that fills the last vacancy. All students above the line will be offered a placement in the school and all students below the line will be placed on the waiting list.

http://www2.tdsb.on.ca/ppf/uploads/files/live/98/271.pdf
http://www2.tdsb.on.ca/ppf/uploads/files/live/98/177.pdf

For all other grades you can apply anytime and you will get added to the current waitlist for your child’s grade. The sooner you apply, the closer you are to the front of the waitlist. Only those applicants who call back at the start of each year between January and the mid-February deadline are moved forward to the next year’s waitlist. Please mark your calendar if you think you’ll still be interested in future years. This ensures our waitlists stay current. If you miss this important waitlist deadline, you risk loosing your spot and being moved to the end of the waitlist.

The waitlist varies from year to year, but just to give you an idea, there are more than 70 JKs on the waitlist last year (those who did not get in during the lottery process). The SK waitlist numbers were at 25. The waitlist for Grade 1 in September was 19. Each grade has its own waitlist, and the waitlist numbers tend to drop as the grades get higher.

My child wasn’t accepted through the lottery so now what?

Any child who wasn’t offered a spot through the JK lottery will be placed on a waitlist. If a student who was offered a spot turns it down or leaves before the second week of school, then it will go to the next person on the waistlist. After the end of the second week of school, TDSB freezes all optional attendance school’s enrolment. This means that even if a JK student chooses to leave Equinox in October, for example moves away, their desk must remain empty for the rest of the school year.

One of my children got a spot at Equinox, but what about my other child?

Equinox tries its best to keep siblings together at the same school; however, it does not guarantee sibling placement due to space limitations. If one sibling is offered a spot and accepts it, then your other child will get moved to the front of the waitlist for their grade. The next available spot in their grade would go to them. If multiple siblings get moved to the front of the waitlist for the same grade, then they will stay in the same order. For example, if Sue was 17th on the waitlist and Mike was 18th, then Sue would now be 1st and Mike would be 2nd.

Placement offers for waitlist students are between June and mid-September. Equinox contacts only those students who are being offered a spot. TDSB freezes all alternative school’s enrolment after mid-September. If your child has not received a placement offer by mid-September, then they will have to wait until the following school year to see if a spot at Equinox becomes available in their grade.

Each year between January and mid-February (this year February 16th, 2018), Equinox requires ALL waitlist applicants to contact our school to confirm they wish to remain on the waitlist. This ensures our waitlists stay current. If you miss this important waitlist deadline, you risk loosing your child’s spot and being moved to the end of the waitlist.

Someone said they heard a student moved away from Equinox so why can’t my child get in that grade?

In 2015-2016 TDSB froze optional attendance schools enrolment. What does that mean? Each February optional attendance school principals have to submit the current enrolment numbers to TDSB. If the principal knows a student is leaving, then they can mark that desk for a new student. Now if an existing student leaves an optional attendance school after this process has been completed (i.e. after February and March), then that spot has to remain empty for the rest of that year and the up coming school year. For example, the Equinox principal marks down 25 new students in February (i.e. 20 JK and 5 other grades) when he submits his enrolment numbers to TDSB. Then in May an existing student (i.e. number 26) decides to leave Equinox. Unfortunately, that spot must remain empty for the up coming school year as it was not marked in February for a new waitlist student.

Hold on to your hats because it gets even more complicated. If one of the 25 new students chooses to leave Equinox the first two weeks of school, then Equinox may replace them with someone off the waitlist. After the first two-weeks then those marked 25 seats are frozen as well by TDSB.

So, if you had someone tell you “but that kid just moved away so you should be able to get in.” Unfortunately, no that does not mean your child can get in because the principal didn’t know that student was leaving and couldn’t mark their desk accordingly for a new student.

TDSB started this new process because they wanted to reduce student movement between schools to better assess and allocated resources.

How many students go to Equinox?

Equinox averages between 190 to 200 enrolled students between JK to grade 8 in any given year. Unfortunately, we can’t grow beyond approx. 200 students due to building space limitations.

My child has special needs, would they be able to go to Equinox?

Equinox students have limited access to special education services. For example, students may receive extra assistance with reading and language skills; however, they are not able to receive full-time dedicated Educational Assistants for long-term one-on-one support. The building we share with another school called Roden is not currently accessible. TDSB is working towards making all schools accessible by 2025.

If Equinox is all about outdoor learning, does it mean my child is going to be outside in extreme weather?

Equinox students, especially in JK/SK, spend a lot of time learning outdoors; however, if the weather is extreme cold/hot temperatures or ice rain or thunderstorms, then students use their indoor classrooms. We even have air conditioning in our school.

How well do Equinox graduates transition into high school?

As a relatively young school we have had only a few years of graduates. Those that have graduated have successfully transitioned into mainstream and alternative high schools. Several of our grads have confirmed they are on the honour role and we are very proud of them.

Why is Equinox’s EQAO rating so low?

A majority of Equinox parents do not agree with standardized testing and will not allow their children to participate in this type of testing process. This means our school’s ratings do not accurately reflect Equinox’s student population. This does not mean students never take a test or a quiz at Equinox. Our teachers conduct tests to gain a better understanding if they need to alter their lessons to better address overall and individual student needs. Did the lesson work? Are students understanding it? The test results are often never shared with the students themselves. This prevents labelling and division amongst classmates. It also reduces stress when taking tests.

Hopefully that helped answer some of your questions. Please feel free to contact the Equinox office if you have any other questions.