TORONTO - Education Minister Liz Sandals says Ontario spends $1 billion a year on underutilized schools, but insists that doesn't mean they are all slated to be closed.

Sandals says most of the more than 600 schools with too few students are in the Toronto area, but the problem exists right across Ontario, and the government can no longer afford to fund empty spaces.

She says the province recognizes that in many small, rural communities a school will have to stay open because kids would have to travel too far to the next community to attend classes.

Sandals says the province wants the different school boards in each community -- English and French, public and Catholic -- to consider consolidation where it makes sense.

And she says in larger cities, it may be a smaller but older school with 100 per cent enrolment that should close and the students moved to an underutilized school with more modern facilities.

Sandals met with reporters Thursday after the troubled Toronto District School Board released a list of 130 schools that are using 65 per cent or less of their capacity.