English-French school swap idea supported by EMSB vice-chair, parent commissioner

Click to play video: 'Could a school swap help ease overcrowding at a French-language school board in Montreal?' Could a school swap help ease overcrowding at a French-language school board in Montreal?
The English Montreal School Board is possibly open to swapping schools with the overcrowded Pointe-de-l'Île school board. Global's Dan Spector has more – May 13, 2019

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.

READ MORE: EMSB must give up 3 schools unless it comes up with new plan: education minister

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.

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“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.

READ MORE: Quebec education ministry picks 3 EMSB schools to be handed over to French system

“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.”

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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.

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