Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge is giving the English Montreal and Pointe-de-l’Île school boards until June 10 to propose a different solution after the ministry’s contentious plan was leaked.
In a letter to the EMSB, Roberge identified three schools he plans to transfer to the overcrowded French-language school board: Gerald McShane Elementary, General Vanier Elementary and John Paul I Junior High School.
WATCH: The government has asked the English Montreal School Board to transfer three school to the French system to address overcrowding. The news came as a shock to everyone involved at the three targeted schools. As Global’s Amanda Jelowicki reports, many are now worried about what could happen next year.
A visibly frustrated Roberge said on Friday morning that he has had to intervene since the two school boards could not come to an agreement. Pointe-de-l’Île needs space for 3,000 students, he added.
“There have been discussions for years,” he said. “It isn’t moving forward.”
If a decision cannot be made by June 10, Roberge intends to use a section of the Education Act that allows him to force a transfer that is deemed to be in the public interest.
Earlier this week, Roberge said the EMSB had until the end of the month to choose which schools it would transfer to the Pointe-de-l’Île school board for the 2019-2020 academic year.
After the letter became public on Thursday, parents of students at the three schools chosen by Roberge told Global News they are in shock. Sonia Pirollo says her daughter has been at Gerald McShane Elementary for two years and is worried about her future.
“I’m very disappointed,” she said.
Kevin Hubert, whose daughter attends Gerald McShane Elementary, described the ministry’s plan to transfer the three schools as “unfair.” He also attended the same school as a child and said it would be a shame to have to shuffle students.
“It’s a great school to bring your children — it’s full of activities,” he said. “I’m sad to hear it’s not going to be the same.”
As parents voice their concerns about the risk of these schools closing, Roberge reiterated he was upset they learned it through the media. However, he said a decision needs to be made immediately.
“If they can improve the solution we put on the table, we are listening to them,” he said.
The EMSB has offered to transfer the Galileo Adult Education Centre to Pointe-de-l’Île for this fall. Roberge has panned the idea, saying it is not an option to move students with special needs.
Angela Mancini, chairperson for the EMSB, argues the government must respect due process, which calls for 18 months of consultations before transferring an elementary or high school. Last week, the school board said the Galileo option meets that requirement.
WATCH BELOW: Galileo school community fights forced move
Manici said on Friday the EMSB is “very open” to helping Pointe-de-l’Île, but that it also needs to ensure the health of its own school board. Parents have made their own suggestions, including cohabitation with the French-language school board, she added.
“I hope that the minister will reconsider his decision and allow us to be able to have other considerations,” said Mancini.
The Pointe-de-l’Île school board issued a statement on Friday, saying it urgently needs space as its enrollment numbers grow. An additional three schools would allow the school board to accommodate students.
“This strong decision by the Quebec government is part of a desire to offer educational services that are focused on the needs of the student, regardless of language,” said chairperson Miville Boudreault.
— With files from Global News’ Gloria Henriquez, Dan Spector, and the Canadian Press
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