09/22/2014 12:43 EDT | Updated 11/22/2014 05:59 EST

Parents of Garden Avenue students oppose school boundary change

Some parents in the city's west end are opposing Toronto District School Board plans to alter its catchment area boundaries in a move that would force their children to switch elementary schools.

Parents of students who attend Garden Avenue Public School received a letter Thursday announcing proposed changes to the school's catchment area.

Garden Avenue is a Kindergarten to Grade 6 school located just west of Roncesvalles in the High Park neighbourhood.

If the boundary changes are accepted, it would would mean about 55 Garden Avenue students would have to attend Parkdale Public School on Seaforth Avenue.

The changes would affect Garden Avenue students who live inside the following area:

- Roncesvalles in the west.

- Marion Street in the north.

- Fuller Street in the east.

- Queen Street West in the south.

The school board says the move is needed to address crowding at Garden Avenue PS, which is operating near its capacity of about 290 students. Although located only about a kilometre away, Parkdale PS is in a more racially diverse neighbourhood with a mix that includes more lower-income residents.

Parkdale is also a much larger school — with capacity for 800 students — but currently operating at about half that. The school board has said realignment is the best way to address the imbalance, as there's little room for expansion at Garden Avenue's small school yard.

Parkdale PS was operating closer to capacity until a recent government crackdown on Roma refugees forced the deportation of many Roma families living in the area.

Michael Paterson is a parent of two Garden Avenue students who would have to switch to Parkdale PS if the TDSB goes ahead with its plan.

In an interview on CBC's Metro Morning Monday, Patterson said he's worried about the disruption the move would cause.

"We're not talking about middle school or high school kids here," he said. "We're talking about primary school kids. Disrupting the lives of these small children and their families, who are emotionally invested in this school that we really love."

Patterson also said the move would affect the racial diversity at Garden Avenue school, which he said is "a very successful model for the way Canada should work."

Issue will come up at trustee elections

The TDSB has set up a public meeting for Tuesday, Sept. 30, to discuss the issue with parents.

The issue is sure to be a factor in upcoming school board trustee elections. Ward 7 trustee Irene Atkinson is not seeking re-election. Marcela Saitua, one of a handful of candidates, said the TDSB faces a difficult situation with the proposed boundary changes.

"We cannot expect our children to learn in over-crowded schools and something obviously has to give," she said.

Saitua also has two children enrolled in Parkdale PS, which she said is a "wonderful school with great programs."

"That being said, I understand why parents whose children currently attend Garden Avenue would not want them to change schools.

She's hoping the school board can arrive at some kind of compromise that would grandfather in the boundary changes in a way that would allow students to stay enrolled at Garden Avenue "so they can continue to attend the school that they know ... and have grown to love."

"Parents are not unreasonable, but they do get upset when important changes are imposed on them without sufficient consultation."