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Toronto students turned away from neighbourhood schools

Last Updated Sep 5, 2016 at 10:23 pm EST

Riverdale Collegiate Institute seen from Google Maps.

With the start of a new school year approaching, Toronto parents could have to relocate their children to a different school, outside of their neighbourhood, if their local schools are full.

The Toronto District School Board has posted warning signs at construction sites saying children moving into newly developed areas may not be allowed to attend their local school because of enrollment pressures.

Over 100 warning signs were posted by the TDSB in 2015 that read:

The Toronto District School Board makes every effort to accommodate students at local schools. However, due to residential growth, sufficient accommodation may not be available for all students. Students may be accommodated in schools outside this area until space in local schools becomes available.

Madison Onaroto, 16, and her family moved from Florida to Leslieville this summer and when her mother, Tina, called TDSB she was told that her home school was Riverdale Collegiate Institute, which was located just one kilometre from their home.

But when Tina went to register her daughter, she was told she wouldn’t be able to attend because it was a closed school, meaning she would have had to enrol back in Grade 9.

“I was shocked,” Tina said.

TDSB spokesperson Zoya McGroarty says the board currently has restrictions on Riverdale to help keep enrollment in check and ensure the school has sufficient space. Only students who attended an area school for Grade 8 can enter into Grade 9 at Riverdale.

“Students who move into the area and apply for admission to the school in Grades 10 to 12 are not allowed in,” McGroarty said.

McGroarty adds students will still have a ‘home school’ assigned to them, such as Danforth Collegiate and Technical Institute, located less than two kilometres away.

“For us it worked out well because we found a good alternative school not far away, but people spend hundreds of thousands of dollars extra [on housing] to be in the ‘right school district’ and there’s no warning that they won’t be allowed in,” Tina said.

“The real estate agent didn’t tell us, there was no warning on the website and the TDSB person I spoke to didn’t seem to be aware either.”

Riverdale Collegiate Institute is the only Toronto school currently operating this way.

McGroarty said that Earl Haig Secondary School also has enrollment restrictions but they are not the same as Riverdale.