A group of west-end Toronto parents are rallying against a decision by the Toronto District School Board to change school boundaries, one they say will disrupt their children's lives and undermine the character of a sought-after elementary school.
Parents received notice from Garden Avenue Public School last week that the board was considering a boundary change that would redirect their children to another school one kilometre east of their High Park neighbourhood, to Parkdale Junior and Senior Public School.
"It feels like the rug has been pulled out from under our family," said Angela Carter, whose daughter, Willow, is in Grade 2 at Garden.
The area surrounding the school is affluent, lined with large detached homes that sell for well over $1-million. The segment of the school catchment that the TDSB has proposed to excise contains some of the only low-income housing in the area, including a multistory apartment building and small rental properties above the shops on Queen Street West and Roncesvalles.
"If you take us out, then Garden becomes monochromatic, both ethnically and socioeconomically," said Ms. Carter.
Garden is operating slightly below capacity, serving about 285 students in a space built for 295. Parkdale was also nearly full until recently, when the federal government began a crackdown on Roma refugees. Many young Roma families who were living in the neighbourhood were sent back to Hungary. The school now has 427 children attending in a building built to accommodate 800.
The board is projecting major growth in the student population that Garden is too small to accommodate, said Manon Gardner, Executive Superintendent of the TDSB.
"It's getting really tight," she said. "We need to have a long-term plan."
Irene Atkinson, the trustee for the area, said she is sympathetic to the affected families, but that a boundary change is the best way to deal with the crowding. Adding a portable would eat up Garden's tiny school yard, she said, and the TDSB won't approve money for an addition as long as there is a half-empty school up the road.
The board will be holding a meeting at Garden to discuss the issue Sept. 30. Ms. Atkinson said she is hopeful that parents will feel more positive about the change after they learn more about Parkdale Public School.
"That neighbourhood has changed a lot," she said.
But parents say they don't have a problem with Parkdale, only that they don't want to leave the Garden community.
"Everything about my child's life has revolved around that school," said Myles McCutcheon, who has a son in Grade 1 and a daughter about to enter the daycare at Garden.
He and other parents are demanding better justification from the TDSB for why they would move their children for a crowding problem that hasn't even materialized yet.
"We think this is a kneejerk reaction," said Mr. McCutcheon. "We need proof of overcrowding."