Police called to EMSB special meeting after parents express anger, frustration at board announcement
Police were called to the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) special meeting Thursday night, where parents were furious after learning the board had voted to add more schools to its cohabitation proposal to the Pointe-de-l’Île board (CSPI).
“This has to be the most incoherent group of people,” said Antonio Zaruso, a parent of a student at General Vanier Elementary, referring to the board’s decision. “You want a freak show? It’s right there.”
EMSB spokesperson Michael Cohen told parents that police were called by a security guard, who became alarmed after seeing how agitated parents were.
Police later left the meeting after they were asked to do so by the board’s chairperson, Angela Mancini.
Parents became frustrated as they learned the details of the proposal.
In addition to suggesting cohabitation at Gerald McShane Elementary and General Vanier Elementary, EMSB will add Lester B. Pearson High School and Laurier Macdonald High School to the proposal.
John Paul I Junior High School, however, is no longer on the list.
Parents of students at Lester B. Pearson who were at the meeting were stunned to find out their school was an option.
“This is a very huge bombshell,” said Franco Mazzariello, a parent with Lester B. Pearson High School. “It’s frustrating not knowing about it in advance.”
WATCH: EMSB parents, students on pins and needles as deadline for school transfer looms
Others were left wondering why John Paul I Junior High School was now off the table.
The EMSB also voted to launch a major school change consultation on June 26. The board will look at which schools to close and which ones to merge so that it can be the one to choose which facilities will be handed over to the overcrowded Pointe-de-l’Île board — not Education Minister Jean-François Roberge.
Roberge had given the EMSB until June 10 to negotiate with the Pointe-de-l’Île board and come up with a solution or risk losing Gerald McShane, John Paul I Junior High School and George Vanier Elementary.
He then extended the deadline to June 26, but the board says the CSPI hasn’t accepted any of the proposals EMSB has presented.
“I can understand the frustration of parents. Having said that, there are parts of this resolution that will help to avoid giving up those schools,” Mancini said.
EMSB vice-chair Joe Ortona says the board is appealing directly to the minister to consider this offer.
“Just because the CSPI has refused to agree with us on any proposal, he should not be rewarding them with schools and punishing us by taking our schools when we are the ones who’ve always sat down at the table and offered everything we possibly could,” Ortona said.
Education ministry, CSPI weigh in
Following the meeting, Cohen said on Friday that the EMSB will present an offer directly to the education ministry.
However, a spokesperson for Roberge said in a statement said the school board should be presenting an offer to the CSPI, not the ministry.
The statement said the transfer agreement from the EMSB to the CSPI will be presented for ratification at the next ministers meeting. The spokesperson added if the school boards wanted to reach a negotiated agreement “It is midnight minus one.”
The CSPI told Global News in a statement that the president of its board has explained on multiple occasions that cohabitation is not a realistic option for its students, because it presents a challenge for French education. The school board said being at multiple buildings is also not realistic and added that urgent needs exist in Montreal North as well as Saint-Léonard.
The EMSB will hold a regular board meeting next Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., where it’s expected to further discuss the issue.
— With files from Global News’ Amanda Jelowicki
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