The Riverdale High School building in Pierrefonds is expected to be handed over to a French school board on July 1 to address the influx of newly registered students and immigrants.
The government has decided to invoke Article 477.1 of the Education Act forcing the transfer once cabinet has approved the plan.
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“The government may, if it considers that the public interest warrants it and to promote the efficient and effective management of school board buildings, order that the property, a building owned by a school board, is transferred to another school board for the establishment of an educational institution,” the article states.
Talks between the school boards have been underway since February 2018 to find a solution to the overflow of students in the French board.
The LBPSB said both school boards had explored four options, including derogation, rental, collaboration and cohabitation before considering a building transfer.
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LBPSB said a building transfer would be subject to their existing “major school change policy,” an 18-month process with public consultation.
However, the minister’s decision to invoke Article 477.1., in a letter dated Dec. 18, 2018, supersedes the LBPSB’s policy. Roberge confirmed this in a statement made public on Monday.
“This additional transfer would reduce the demographic pressure experienced by the CSMB, improve learning conditions and thus, the academic success of students in the territory, while facilitating full francization and integration of newcomers,” Roberge said.
The decision worries officials at the English school board.
“The minister must recognize that he is circumventing our school board’s policies on school transfers,” said LBPSB Chairperson Noel Burke in a statement Monday.
He stated the move limits the board’s ability to ensure a smooth transition without negatively affecting the delivery of educational services, students and staff.
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Burke is “urging the minister to provide some additional time to allow the two school boards to continue discussions, supporting a proposal that will properly protect the interests of the students and their communities.”
Monday, the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) said it found Roberge’s move to cede Riverdale High School to the French school board to be unacceptable.
“This is a gross infringement on local autonomy and on the powers of duly elected school board commissioners to manage and control our school system and on our constitutional rights as a minority language community,” said QESBA President Dan Lamoureux.
“If this is a preview of what is to come from this government, we should all be concerned about our right.”
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For the time being, the LBPSB said it will be acting quickly “to assess the needs required to ensure a respectful and equitable relocation of the staff; and start discussions with our unions and associations,” said LBPSB Director General Michael Chechile.
“Our immediate priority will be ensuring that students and staff are cared for with the upmost respect.”
The adult and vocational programs housed at the Riverdale High School building are expected to remain in the building under a rental agreement to be drawn up with Marguerite-Bourgeoys School Board.