Frequently Asked Questions
Thank you for considering Equinox Holistic Alternative School. Choosing a school for our children can feel like a big decision, with much to consider. Hopefully our Equinox School Council website can answer a few questions that you may have about the application process 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
How is Equinox different from my regular local home school?
Equinox follows the Ontario Ministry of Education curriculum, but what’s different is how our educators teach. They draw from Holistic Education and Land-based Learning practices. They integrate hands-on strategies and problem-solving activities into daily learning and 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, kindergarten students might learn about gravity by rolling pumpkins down a hill at Monarch Park in the fall. The Grade 2 students may learn multiplication through songs with movements, math games, working with ten-and-single blocks, drawing on graph paper, and standard number lines. One year, our grade 7/8 students created this award-winning WaterDocs Water Challenge Video.
Another difference is that Equinox classes go on numerous educational field trips. JK/SK students go on weekly walking trips. Students also help direct their own learning with the guidance of their teachers. Our school offers meaningful mentoring and support amongst our students, teachers, staff, and parent/guardian community.
Teachers at Equinox also take a holistic approach to assessing student learning. Assessment tasks are used to shape future learning and to help teachers and students identify areas of growth and of ongoing need. Receiving letter or numerical grades is not necessarily part of the day-to-day school experience for Equinox students.
Those are just a few of the differences at Equinox.
How do I see the school?
Equinox hosts only one in-person Open House each school year in January. All are welcome to attend, including children. No registration is required to participate. The event starts with a formal presentation in the gym by staff, followed by school tours. The 2022-2023 school year Open House has already past. It was held on January 11, 2023. The next Open House will be in January 2024.
Unfortunately, we are unable to accommodate individual personal tours due to staff time constraints and to maintain the integrity of the program and privacy of our students.
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/from alternative schools as they are “out-of-area” status schools (formally known as “optional attendance”).
Click here to see a quick reference guide to TDSB’s 40 different alternative schools.
Did you know that TDSB also has out-of-area elementary academy and specialty schools which are open to all families residing in Toronto for FREE! Click here to learn more.
When may I enrol my child at Equinox?
Families may apply on the TDSB website for JK to grade 8 in any elementary alternative schools from January 16, 2023 @ 4 pm to February 16, 2023 @ 4 pm for the upcoming 2023-2024 school year. Children must be turning 4 in the calendar year they apply for JK.
How many JK spots are available?
The number of spots available per grade varies year-to-year and is determined by TDSB. In past years, Equinox has had 20 JK spots allocated to our school by the Board.
What is the process for JK-8 admissions?
In January 2023, TDSB will be launching a new centralized online application form and admissions process for all elementary alternative schools’ 2023-2024 school year admissions. Applications and admissions will no longer be managed by the individual elementary alternative schools.
Student applications may be submitted to TDSB on its website between January 16, 2023 @ 4 pm to February 16, 2023 @ 4 pm for the upcoming 2023-2024 school year for elementary alternative schools. In March, a Board approved third-party random selection software will be used used to rank order student applicants adhering to TDSB identified equity priority groups. If more applicants apply than spots available, they will be placed on a waitlist in order listed by the random selection software. Admission offers are made in two rounds: first offers and second offers. If initial TDSB admission offers are declined by selected applicants, then the next person on the waitlist will be made an offer. The admissions process is supervised by TDSB staff and alternative school community parent/guardian representatives.
All admissions offers are made by end of March. After that, elementary alternative schools’ enrolment is frozen by TDSB and no new admission offers will be made, including if a student leaves the school after March.
Why does TDSB freeze elementary alternative schools enrolment after March?
Annually, TDSB completes board-wide (approx. 583 schools) predicted enrolment numbers, staff allocations, and class breakdowns by the end of March for the upcoming school year. This information is shared with individual school communities in April. Hiring of school staff is done in May/June. Any student movement (i.e. switching schools) after March increases the risk of those predicted allocations and hiring of staff being off.
Understandably, TDSB is unable to 100% control student movement. Schools boards must accept any student who lives in a designated local home school’s catchment area as per Ontario Ministry of Education specifications. The same does not apply for “out-of-area” status schools (i.e. elementary alternative, specialty, academy, etc.). TDSB has full control of their enrolment and admissions. Freezing out-of-area schools’ enrolment after March helps reduce student movement.
For example, if a student turns down a spot after March, that decision currently impacts only two schools – the elementary alternative school (like Equinox) and the local designated home school the student is choosing to attend instead. If an elementary alternative school accepted another student after March from another school it would add a third school into the mix. Thus, further increasing student movement across the Board and increasing the ripple effect on staffing allocations, class breakdowns, etc. for all the schools involved in those student switches. A shift of just one student may be enough to tip a school to gain/loose a teacher and/or decrease/increase class sizes when TDSB conducts its annual board-wide reorganization each fall. That process ensures TDSB’s finite resources (as specified and financed by the Ontario Ministry of Education) goes to where students actually show-up each September vs. where the Board predicted the previous Spring.
My child wasn’t accepted through the random selection process so now what?
Any child who wasn’t offered a spot through the random selection process by the end of March will not get into the school. They need to reapply the following school year.
One of my children got a spot at Equinox, but what about my other child?
TDSB tries its best to keep families to together in one school under its Sibling Policy. Priority admissions will be given to a sibling if space is available in the school in their specific grade. The sibling currently enrolled in the school must still be enrolled in the school the same year the other sibling joins it to be eligible for priority admissions. If there is no space in their specific grade for the upcoming school, then the sibling will not be able to be enrolled. They may reapply the following school year for consideration.
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.
Are elementary alternative schools guaranteed smaller class sizes?
It is a myth that TDSB alternative schools are guaranteed smaller class sizes. The fact is TDSB alternative schools have the exact same class size formulas applied to them as non-alternative TDSB schools. Some elementary alternative schools do have class sizes of 30+ students in grades 4-8. The exact same as non-alternative schools.
So, why do some TDSB schools have smaller class sizes while others have larger ones if the Ontario Ministry or Education clearly stipulates averages and cap class sizes?
It often comes down to the total enrolment numbers per each school and grade vs. total number of teachers funded by the government. If the number of students enrolled per grade in a specific school is lower, it may make it difficult for the Board to hit the provincial targeted class sizes (even with split classes). Simply put, lower total school/grade enrolment numbers may result in smaller class sizes. To off-set those smaller class sizes, the Board must then create higher class sizes at other schools to balance everything out. Keep in mind, there is a finite number of teachers available across the Board based on government funding models. There are only so many teachers to go around TDSB’s 583 schools.
This is why each September/October, TDSB reviews its actual enrolment numbers vs. its predicted enrolment numbers and does a board-wide staff allocation and class breakdown reorganization. If less students show-up then predicted by the Board, it results in less government funding and less teachers available to go around that school year. If more students show-up than predicted, then there is increased government funding and more teachers are available. TDSB tries to ensure their finite government funded resources based on student head count go to where students show-up each fall.
Please Note: Equity factors are also applied to staff allocations after the main formulas are applied by the Board. The equity process is not formula based, but determined by an internal TDSB team in consultations with various TDSB staff such as Superintendents.
My child has special needs, would they be able to go to Equinox?
Elementary alternative schools have the same access to supports as any other TDSB school; however, the building Equinox shares with Roden Public School (JK-8) is not currently accessible. TDSB is working towards making all of its schools accessible.
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?
Every student’s experience is unique; however, families and graduates have said they found the transition into mainstream and non-mainstream high schools fairly smooth.
What is available for before/after school care?
Please click here to visit our before/after school page.