Toronto

Parents fight Etobicoke Catholic school boundary change proposal at tense trustee meeting

It was a full house for the Toronto Catholic District School Board as parents fought a proposal that aims to fix the ongoing enrolment pressure at Michael Power, Father John Redmond and Bishop Allen — three high-performing Etobicoke high schools.

Proposal aims to fix enrolment pressure at 3 high-performing Etobicoke high schools

Two Grade 6 feeder school students, Kejsi Musta, right, and Sarah Zewdu, made a presentation in front of the trustees, which led to one of several tense moments in the meeting. (John Sandeman/CBC News)

The mood was tense on Thursday night as dozens of parents fought a possible boundary change that could send some future Etobicoke high school students on a 45-minute commute to North York.

It was a full house for the Toronto Catholic District School Board meeting as parent after parent made their case in front of trustees, pushing back against a proposal that aims to fix the enrolment pressure at Michael Power, Father John Redmond and Bishop Allen — three high-performing Etobicoke high schools.

The proposal would mean students from feeder schools could wind up elsewhere, be it St. Basil-the-Great, which is near Sheppard Avenue West and Highway 400, or Blessed Archbishop Romero, at Humber Boulevard and Weston Road.

Two of those feeder school students, Kejsi Musta and Sarah Zewdu, made a presentation in front of the trustees, which led to one of several tense moments in the meeting.

"We did our research and found Archbishop Romero was rated 4.5 out of 10 on the website Fraser Institute. Why would we want to go to a school that won't provide ..." said Zewdu, before being cut off by Ward 5 trustee Maria Rizzo.

"I'm going to ask you, please: Don't put down other schools. It's really not kind to them," said Rizzo. The interruption was met with a mix of applause and boos.

Later, father of three Victor Capella was also cut off while attempting to highlight crime statistics in the area surrounding Archbishop Romero.

"If I have the opportunity to advocate for my children to be in an area with less crime, obviously I'm going to push for that," he later told CBC Toronto.

School quality, crime rates concerns for parents

Both school quality and crime rates were concerns that popped up among parents fighting the proposed change, coupled with the possibility of a longer commute for students and a lack of specialized programs at the other schools.

Speaking to CBC Toronto, Ward 2 trustee Ann Andrachuk said that offering programming at a broader range of schools — things like arts programs or the highly sought-after international baccalaureate offering, which are available at certain top-performing schools — is crucial.

But she said the bottom line is the existing admissions policy simply "isn't working" for some of the Catholic board's high schools.

The proposed change to balance enrolment, she said, is just that — a proposal.

It's currently in the public consultation phase, and Andrachuk said the board is also considering having another high school in central Etobicoke. But, since the Catholic board doesn't have any properties available, they're waiting to see if there are any surplus facilities in the Toronto District School Board instead.

"This isn't going to change any policy in the near future ... I can't see anything happening for several months into the fall," she said.

With files from Laura Fraser, Chris Glover

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