Ontario Line construction could force 300-plus kids to relocate from Riverdale school

The TDSB is considering having students from Pape Jr. Elementary School move to a facility on Jones Avenue next year. Safety and disruption from construction by Metrolinx have raised concerns. Mark McAllister gathers reaction.

A major subway project threatens to force hundreds of students to take a longer walk to school next year.

Pape Avenue Junior Public School in Riverdale is right in line with the construction of the new Ontario Line and the signs of disruption are already visible with large concrete blocks and fencing around playground equipment.

The chaos from the surrounding construction is expected to continue for several years and as a result the Toronto District School Board recently informed parents upwards of 330 students from senior kindergarten to Grade 6 could be transferred to Jones Adult Learning Centre, a 10 to 15-minute walk northeast.

“Our kids have enough on the go and another layer of disruption isn’t ideal,” said Cara McCutcheon, the chair of the Pape Parent Council. “I’d like to learn more information. I want to hear from the TDSB what exactly makes our school unsafe and unhealthy to send our kids there.”

The TDSB admits it is a complicated and complex situation that is constantly changing.

“In the end if we are to relocate, is it entirely because it’s not safe to be on the school property or is it safe to stay on the existing school property but accessing the building,” said spokesperson Ryan Bird.

Adding to the concern is the fact Jones Adult Learning Centre, which was recently rebuilt after a fire in 2019, would need to undergo further renovations to accommodate the additional students.

McCutcheon says the effects of the Ontario Line construction are starting to be noticed.

“We’ve had some change in traffic flow and the drop-off zone has changed so now parents are starting to wake up and pay a little more attention to what’s happening.”

Metrolinx says it has developed a health and safety plan which includes paid duty police officers and crossing guards, installing signage and building a noise wall with monitoring equipment. In a statement to CityNews, the transit agency says its construction plans assume the continued operation of the school in its current location and any decision to relocate students and staff “is up to the Toronto District School Board.”

The TDSB says any decision to relocate won’t be made until the fall after collecting feedback from parents and other stakeholders.

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