Facing a space crunch in its classrooms, Toronto's French school board says it's prepared to sue the province in a dispute over vacant schools.

Toronto's French public school board — Conseil scolaire Viamonde — is growing every year, creating crowded classrooms at schools such as Pierre Elliott Trudeau elementary on Grace Street.

Parent Sylvie Lemay said the school provides a great learning environment for her fifth grader, but it's getting crowded. The school is already using two portables and with the enrolment of just four more students, it will be at capacity.

"There are no empty classrooms," Lemay told CBC's Genevieve Tomney. "The teachers' lounge gets used to do activities with students. I am not really sure where the teachers do their prep work. I think we're overfull."

The French school board is growing every year. The board is trying to buy a handful of properties the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) wants to unload as its enrolment starts to shrink.

One school the French board covets is Essex West School on Essex Street, which has been declared surplus by the TDSB.

Purchase funds needed from province

The French school board generally gets first dibs on any properties TDSB puts up for sale.

But it can't buy the old schools without money from the province and so far, the education ministry has refused to provide the funds. Education Minister Leona Dombrowsky insists her department is doing its part to meet the needs of the French school board but refused to talk about this particular case when asked about it Monday.

Dombrowsky said the province has 80 new French language schools province-wide and has 80 more in the works.

"With respect to a specific school, I'm not going to make a comment," Dombrowsky told CBC on Monday. "But I think it's really important that people are aware that French language education is a priority for us and that we have been investing."

Scolaire Viamonde chair Ronald Marion said his board has sent notice through its lawyers and said there may even be grounds for a challenge under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"We have a right to obtain schools in order to allow students in Toronto to avail themselves of public French language education," said Marion.

The French school board said it will give the province until Friday to provide the purchase funds or face the threat of legal action.