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Châteauguay elementary schools face overcrowding, forced to re-zone

WATCH ABOVE: While many English schools in Quebec suffer from dwindling enrolment, two schools in Châteauguay have the opposite problem. As Global's Kelly Greig reports, Harmony Elementary and Mary Gardner School are both facing overcrowding.

Classrooms are filled to the brim at Mary Gardner School and Harmony Elementary, in Châteauguay in Montreal’s south shore.

“If we do not do something within the year, we will have kids having classes in the cafeteria,” said New Frontiers executive director Rob Buttars.

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Each school is nearing capacity and Harmony Elementary’s projected numbers put them over the maximum.

“Every single classroom is being used at all times,” said Mary Gardner principal Lynn Harkness.

“We just don’t have the space to do anything else.”

Projected enrolment numbers at Harmony Elementary and Mary Gardner School in Châteauguay, Monday, November 28, 2016.
Projected enrolment numbers at Harmony Elementary and Mary Gardner School in Châteauguay, Monday, November 28, 2016.

The board is proposing to re-zone and distribute students more equally through its four Châteauguay elementary schools, which means some students will have to change schools.

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“My son has been here since kindergarten and he’s going into Grade 5, where they will take the marks for high school,” said parent Nadia Pruneau.

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“Moving to a different school is out of routine.”

The board has proposed five different re-zoning scenarios.

“It’s a change that has to happen,” said parent committee head Bre-Anne Graham.

“There’s 26 kids in each of the Grade 4 classrooms. It’s too many to have the proper attention.”

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For those in outlying regions, it could mean going to another school that is even farther away.

“We don’t use the bus system, we drive to school,” said parent and Beauhornois resident Jessica Larose.

“We don’t want to go to Howick and have to drive 20-25 minutes farther away.”

While parents are concerned, it’s a unique problem for the school board to have as English school enrolment is dropping across the province.

“We’re no different, we are in decline in our rural areas, but here in Châteauguay, young families are moving into the area who are eligible for English education,” said Buttars.

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A final decision on how to re-zone will be made in February.

Parents are able to have their say until Friday.

Changes will come into effect in next school year.