BREAKING: Two EMSB schools to be transferred to overcrowded French board

BREAKING: Two EMSB schools to be transferred to overcrowded French board

CTV Montreal Staff

Published Thursday, June 27, 2019 4:26PM EDT

Last Updated Thursday, June 27, 2019 6:09PM EDT

Control of two English Montreal School Board schools will be transferred to a struggling French board, according to a letter sent from the provincial education ministry to parents.

General Vanier and John Paul I will both be transferred to the Commission scolaire de la Pointe-de-L’Ile this summer, according to the letter. A third school, Gerald McShane, that had previously been announced to be slated for transfer will be retained by the EMSB, due to it being the only elementary school in Montreal North. 

While the decision to give the schools over to the was initially announced weeks ago, it still needed to be confirmed by the provincial cabinet. Following a cabinet meeting on Wednesday Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge said a decision had been made but declined to tell media what had been decided. 

He said his silence was a matter of “respect” towards parents of children attending the schools and that they would be informed via letter.

On Thursday afternoon, Roberge’s office told CTV News that a letter will be sent out imminently – clarifying that it will come in the form of an e-mail to the EMSB, who will then be asked to pass it on to parents. 

In the letter, Roberge said the decision was made due to CSPI schools “bursting at the seams.”

“Students are being denied facilities that every child should have in their schools – librairies, resource rooms and computer rooms – to accommodate the influx of new students in to the board,” he said.

He added that while 39 new schools are being built in the next few years across Montreal to alleviate overcrowding “we cannot abdicate our responsibilities by asking CSPI students to stay home until new schools are built.”

“I have read your letters, I have met with some of you who are affected by these measures and I have listened to your concerns,” he said. “I myself am a father and I understand your unease at the idea of having to change schools in such a short time.”

EMSB “disappointed”

In a statement, the EMSB said the board is “deeply disappointed” by Roberge’s decision.

“We are very disappointed with this news, having negotiated in good faith and having done everything possible to save these schools buildings,” said EMSB Chairperson Angela Mancini. “We will now review all recourses available to us.”

A town hall meeting for parents, administrators and EMSB governing board members of John Paul I and General Vanier will be held on July 2 at Laurier Macdonald High School. Cohen said that a contingency plan will be presented at that meeting.

A difficult wait

Earlier on Thursday, parents said it’s been very difficult since news first broke that the schools in Montreal North and St-Leonard would be possibly transferred to the French board.

“At this point, just let us know. We need to move forward. At the end of the day, whatever the decision is. There are things we need to do, that we need to prepare. So if they’re transferring our school, well what’s our next step? If they’re not, what’s our next step?” said Francesca Pitruzzello, who is the governing board chair at Gerald McShane School.

Gerald McShane is the last English elementary school in Montreal North and there are concerns that Lester B. Pearson High School, the only English high school there, will be next.

Parents have held rallies, attended raucous school board meetings and done their best to capture Roberge’s attention. 

Meantime, the EMSB has voted to launch its first Major School Change consultation in seven years. In a statement release Wednesday, the board said the public consultations would be held “in order to demonstrate to the minister and the CSPI that the EMSB is committed to giving up buildings,” but on their own terms.

Among the scenarios that will be presented to the public are several that would see EMSB schools in St-Leonard, St-Michel and Montreal North consolidated or merged, with school space being given to the struggling French board.

Mancini said it’s been a difficult process for the board and families alike.

“Many parents want to know where their children will be going next year. We’re at the end of the school year and we’re still not able to give them answers and part of that has to do with the fact the minister has not indicated to us his final decision,” she said.

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