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EMSB parents call for cohabitation between English and French schools as deadline looms

Is cohabitation the solution to overcrowding in Montreal schools?
WATCH: Parents from Gerald McShane and General Vanier elementary schools in the east end have voted in favor of "cohabitation" with the overcrowded Pointe-de-l'Ile school board. The parents say they would prefer to share space rather than lose their schools all-together. As Global's Brayden Jagger Haines explains, the education minister is standing firm.

Parents of Gerald McShane and General Vanier elementary schools are throwing their weight behind the idea of cohabitation between English and French schools as the deadline looms for a pending transfer.

The governing boards of the two schools released the results of a vote among parents held earlier this month, agreeing a merger would be the best solution to save the three English Montreal School Board schools set to be transferred by the province to the Pointe-de-l’Île school board.

A total of 89 per cent of parents at Gerald McShane voted for a school merger.

READ MORE: Parents, students form human chains around English schools set to be given to French school board

“We want to remain intact as a community in Montreal North,” Gerald McShane governing board chairperson Francesca Pitruzzello said. “I’m hopeful that this will pan out and we will have cohabitation.”

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Bob Reda from the General Vanier governing board said parents wanted to get their message out and they are “ready to cohabitate” with the French-language school board.

Tentative plans for empty classrooms at Gerald McShane have already been drawn up in hopes that cohabitation is approved by all sides. Pitruzzello says eight classrooms that hold 20 students will be made available.

Pitruzzello says transferring the buildings replaces one problem with another.

READ MORE: Quebec Education Minister hopes for alternative to EMSB school transfers

Several other possible solutions have been thrown around, including merging some of the French students at the EMSB’s Galileo Adult Education Centre, but the province and officials with the special-needs school oppose the idea.

Liberal opposition education critic Marwah Rizqy says that she understand the issue but said cohabitation for a “short-term period” while construction on the needed French schools would be a “good idea.”

If the two school boards cannot come to an agreement, Education Minister Jean-François Roberge says he intends to use a section of the Education Act that allows him to force a transfer deemed to be in the public interest.

Roberge stood his ground on his opposition towards the idea of cohabitation on Monday.

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“Cohabitation could be a fast action but its not a long-term solution for us,” he said.

The school boards have until June 10 to submit an alternative proposal.

— With files from the Canadian Press