It was a nasty back-to-school surprise for several children Friday -- on their first day back, 17 students of a Mile End elementary school were told they had to leave because they were being transferred to other schools.

Students at the school protested the decision outside Friday, chanting “So-so-so, solidarité” to show support for their ousted peers.

Randal Ascui was told his son had to leave after five years attending Lambert-Closse Elementary School, which is on St Urbain St. just above Bernard St. W.

One mother had two children attending the school until Thursday night, when they were told her youngest would have to attend their local school in Rosemont.

“I called my local school and they've already had to displace a student to make room for my son, so it creates a domino effect,” she said.

The school’s explanation is some of the students who enrolled last winter didn't show up Thursday, forcing it to cut classes.

A spokesperson for the Commission scolaire de Montreal said parents who choose to send their children to a school outside of their district should know they’re taking a risk.

The parents’ committee says the school board could find a way to avoid all this, but refuses to.

“That's the problem with the [school boards]: they are above all, not in touch with the school, the reality, what's going on on the ground. They make their decisions based on their papers, as accountants and not on the reality at the school,” said Yves Blanchet, a member of the parents’ committee.

Many parents say the school board is failing all of them. They want the decision reversed, and say they won’t go quietly.