Montreal West parents worry about room at Edinburgh Elementary for local kids

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What to do about overcrowding at Edinburgh Elementary?
WATCH: Michael Rodger, chair of the Edinburgh school governing board, talks about the issue of overcrowding at the Montreal West school and discusses possible solutions – Dec 12, 2018

Melissa Mennillo moved from Lasalle to Montreal West with one purpose in mind: having her two children attend Edinburgh Elementary.

But that has now become a very lofty goal because the school is so overcrowded. Last year, it rejected 47 new families — some in favour of unzoned students.

“Montreal West taxes are the highest, it’s a struggle to make those payments to have the school I wanted in the area that I want,” Mennillo said.

The issue stems from a few years ago, when the school opened its doors to families from outside the school zone due to low registration.

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Priority is now being given to the siblings of those children, and that leaves families like Mennillo’s in a precarious situation.

“The policy of the school board regarding siblings is that they always had priority in terms of registration, for the simple reason that we don’t want to break up families,” said Joseph Lalla, school commissioner responsible for NDG and Montreal-West.

WATCH: English schools in Montreal face overcrowding as school year begins

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English schools in Montreal face overcrowding as school year begins

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Currently, some of the local children enrolled in Edinburgh are being bussed to Willingdon in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.

“I live a block away from Edinburgh. Willingdon is a 10-minute drive with no traffic. It’s a matter of quality of life for the next nine years,” said Mennillo, who lives a block away from Edinburgh.

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It was one of the concerns shared by other parents at a meeting Monday night.

“Parents were literally in tears,” Mennillo said.

The mother of two told Global News she understands siblings shouldn’t be broken up and says that, like other parents at the meeting, she believes the solution would be to add trailers to Edinburgh to expand its space.

“I never envisioned my child going to school in a trailer, but at least they’ll get to feel a part of the school and we don’t have to deal with two different schools, two drop-offs,” Mennillo explained.

Michael Rodger, chair of the Edinburgh school governing board, spoke to Global News on Tuesday morning to clarify a few points.

He said that he understands parents are worried about out-of-zone students taking spots they feel should go to local kids.

He noted, however, that the number is “immaterial.”

“When you consider last year that there were over 80 students [who] applied for kindergarten, and we could only accept about 42, the number of out-of-zone students doesn’t really move the needle very much.”

The problem is that the school is at capacity.

“With 400 students, we’re bursting at the seams,” Rodger said. While adding trailers is a possibility, Rodger said the board is looking for a permanent solution, not a stop-gap measure.

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There is also the promise of opening a new school.

WATCH: The EMSB has come up with a plan to merge two alternative schools and open a new elementary school in NDG

Click to play video: 'New English schools for NDG'
New English schools for NDG

Last October, commissioners voted in favour of the recommendation to open a new school, which will be located on Coronation Avenue in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce next September.

“That’s out for consultation,” Lalla explained.

Edinburgh Elementary’s governing board will prepare a brief with parents’ comments. The brief will be presented to the school board January 9th for the board to make a decision.

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Commissioner Lalla says it’s up to the council of commissioners to decide.

“All options are considered,” Lalla said. “I will represent the parents and continue to fight for an annex for the school because that was their first choice.”

In the meantime, Mennillo says she’s ordered temporary campers to camp out in front of Edinburgh when registration opens next February.

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