The idea of an English school in Montreal North and a Rivière-des-Prairies French school trading buildings is gaining support at the English Montreal School Board (EMSB).
“It’s an idea that’s outside the box,” said RDP resident Joseph Paglia, who is touting a plan in which Ecole Jean Grou of the Pointe-de-l’Île school board and Lester B. Pearson High School of the EMSB swap buildings.
Last week, Education Minister Jean-François Roberge unveiled a plan to turn three English Montreal School Board buildings over to overcrowded Pointe-de-l’Île. Roberge gave the boards until June 10 to come up with another solution to Pointe-de-l’Île‘s overcrowding problem.
Ecole Jean Grou has a capacity of about 1,000. Lester B. Pearson High School has a capacity of about 2,000 and less than 1000 students.
“The idea was to swap schools between the two boards,” explained Paglia. “We would get a school in our borough, where 70 per cent of the population of Lester B. High School is made up of people who live in RDP. At the same time, we’re helping Pointe-de-l’Île with their overcrowding issues.”
Paglia has over 1000 signatures on a petition supporting the idea, which he plans to bring to the special EMSB meeting Monday night. Support for the swap is already growing.
“I do know that besides myself, there are a few other commissioners that look favourable on this idea,” said EMSB parent commissioner Pietro Mercuri. EMSB vice-chair Joe Ortona also told Global News he supports the idea.
At Lester B. Pearson High School, the idea of moving to a smaller building was not popular Monday morning.
“I don’t know if it’s as equipped,” parent Tony Lapenna said of Jean Grou, as he dropped his child off at school. “Pearson has a beautiful gym. It’s very well equipped.”
“I wouldn’t really like that at all,” said Lester B. Pearson High School Grade 9 student Alyssa Franchi. “It’s a bit unfair. The French schools get the big school, but we’ve been here a long time. It wouldn’t make the kids happy.”
To Paglia, who has children who go to elementary school in RDP, the move to Jean Grou could keep Lester B. Pearson off the chopping block in future.
“The legacy of the school is not brick and mortar, but really the staff the students, and the parents that make the school what it is. Moving a school could potentially save the school,” Paglia told Global News.
In an email, a spokesperson for the education minister said Roberge will wait to hear formal word from the EMSB before responding to the idea. Though Pointe-de-l’Île would gain 1,000 spaces if the swap were to be done, they would still need about 2,000 more.