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, 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 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 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 host an Open House only ONCE a year in mid-January.
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 see a quick reference guide to TDSB’s 40 different alternative schools.
Did you know that TDSB also has optional attendance 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 for Junior Kindergarten?
Junior Kindergarten (JK) admissions are based on a lottery process at our school due to limited space available. You may register for the JK lottery the calendar year your child turns four. Equinox’s junior kindergarten lottery is open in January and early February each year. So, if your child will be turning four by the end of December, and would be beginning JK in September, you may apply for the JK program at Equinox during the January/February lottery registration window of that same year.
Equinox CANNOT accept your child’s application, nor add them to our waitlists, if they are under four years old the year they apply.
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?
The lottery process is supervised by the Superintendent, Principal, Front Office Administrator and a School Council Representative. 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. This process ensures the lottery is both transparent and fair.
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 often around 70 JKs on the waitlist (those who did not get in during the lottery process). The SK waitlist numbers are usually around 25; 15 for grade one. 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 JK lottery so now what?
Any child who wasn’t offered a spot through the JK lottery will be placed on a waitlist.
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.
My child is on the wait list. When will I know if they got a spot at Equinox?
Be sure to confirm your child’s waitlist number with the front office. On average only one to two spots become available per grade, per school year. If your child is first, second or third on the waitlist they have a very good chance of getting into Equinox. Those students near the end of the waitlist are highly unlikely to get into Equinox for the upcoming school year.
Placement offers for waitlist students are made in June, the last week of August and in early September. Equinox contacts only those students who are being offered a spot.
At the end of the school year, Equinox confirms how many existing students are staying and leaving. The school makes new placement offers based on this information.
TDSB schools are closed for the summer – July and most of August. Staff return to school the last week of August. At that time, Equinox confirms if any more existing students have confirmed that they are leaving the school OR if any new placement offers have decided to turn their spot down. Based on this information additional placement offers are made to waitlist families the last week of August.
If any students leave Equinox before mid-September, the front office will make additional new placement offers to waitlist families. 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, 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 upcoming school year. For example, the Equinox principal marks down 25 new students in February (i.e. 20 JK and 5 other grades) when they submit 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 upcoming 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.
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?
Families and graduates tells us they find the transition into mainstream and alternative high schools fairly smooth. Because Equinox doesn’t emphasize standard test-taking (we do definitely have tests but the approach may be a little different from mainstream), some families tell us there can be a little catch-up on basic test preparation skills. As one parent put it, in their home, they just had to have a single conversation about how to take study notes, and their student was set.
What is available for before/after school care?
Please click here to visit our before/after school page.