The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) has until the end of the month to choose which of its buildings it will hand over to an overcrowded French-language school board or the province will step in, according to Quebec’s education minister.
“I’m still patient,” said Jean-François Roberge on Wednesday. “But there is no more patience after May.”
The EMSB has already offered the Galileo Adult Education Centre, which is home to more than 140 students with special needs. It proposed transferring the building to the Pointe-de-l’île school board, while the entire Galileo school would possibly be relocated to St. Pius X Career Centre.
The plan has been met with protest from both students and parents. After facing pressure in the National Assembly, Roberge said he told the EMSB to choose a school, but never proposed moving Galileo.
“I told them again we must find a solution within a few weeks,” he said. “To transfer the students with special needs from Galileo is not an option for the government and I was pretty clear about that.”
The EMSB, for its part, has contended Roberge asked the board to give the name of a school to hand over — and that it doesn’t have any other options due to legal constraints.
The law requires an 18-month consultation period for an elementary or high school to be handed over, but the overcrowded Pointe-de-l’île school board needs the space by this fall. The EMSB says only an adult education centre can be transferred to meet the September deadline.
WATCH BELOW: Galileo school community fights forced move
Roberge argues the two school boards have been in negotiations for years over school transfers. He says the education ministry will step in and impose a decision if the EMSB does not come up with a different plan by the end of May.
“We don’t have time to waste anymore,” said Roberge.
The English Montreal School Board responds
In a special meeting Wednesday night, the EMSB’s vice-chair Joe Ortona said he was “flabbergasted” by the minister’s comments.
“I’m a loss for words. I don’t understand what the minister expects from us,” Ortona said. “If he has a magic solution, by all means, tell us what it is, but he can’t expect us to hand over schools.”
The EMSB did not reach a decision on whether it would challenge the minister on Galileo but they are again proposing to share a building with a French school in Rivière-des-Prairies, Saint-Leonard or Montreal North, something the minister has also said no to.
“It’s imperative in my mind that we have a discussion with our stakeholders,” Mancini said. “The parents out there in our community are extremely bright people who I think may be able to come to us and even suggest solutions we have maybe never thought of before,” she added.
As for Galileo, a public consultation will still be held on May 16. A brief will then be presented to the EMSB and a vote is expected on May 21.
— With files from Global News’ Annabelle Olivier, Elysia Bryan-Baynes and Gloria Henriquez