Quebec to hand over 2 EMSB schools to overcrowded French board

Click to play video: 'Parents react to EMSB school closures' Parents react to EMSB school closures
The EMSB will have to transfer two of it schools. Parent Antonio Zaruso says the move comes as a blow – Jun 28, 2019

The English Montreal School Board’s General Vanier and John Paul I schools will be transferred this summer to an overcrowded French-language board.

Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge outlined his final decision in a letter to parents on Thursday.

“Our government has had to make a hard decision,” he wrote. “The Commission scolaire de la Pointe-de-l’Île schools are bursting at the seams.”

READ MORE: Quebec education minister has made a decision on school transfers but won’t reveal plan

Gerald McShane School, however, has been spared from being handed over to Pointe-de-l’Île since it is the only English-language elementary school in Montreal North, according to Roberge.

WATCH: Reaction was swift when Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge finally announced which EMSB schools would be transferred over to the french Commission Scolaire Pointe de L’ile board. As Global’s Phil Carpenter explains, parents of the schools that were spared were relieved, while those at John Paul I and General Vanier are now left to scramble for the upcoming school year.

Click to play video: 'Parents react to EMSB school closures' Parents react to EMSB school closures
Parents react to EMSB school closures – Jun 28, 2019

The education ministry could not leave students at the French-language school board without a place to go come the fall, he added.

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“Under the Education Act, we are legally required to provide every child with an education, whether they are English speaking or francophone,” Roberge wrote.

The debate over how to accommodate Pointe-de-l’Île’s dire need for more space while saving EMSB schools from closing has been going on for months. The EMSB has repeatedly suggested co-habitation as a solution, but both the province and the French-language board panned the idea.

READ MORE: English Montreal School Board votes to launch Major School Change consultation

In the letter, Roberge says the English-speaking community deserves to be part of the process when it comes to school transfers. He added he hopes the EMSB’s decision to launch a six-month public consultation will help avoid similar crises in the future.

“I have read your letters, I have met with some of you who are affected by these measures, and I have listened to your concerns,” Roberge wrote. “I myself am a father, and I understand your unease at the idea of having to change schools in such a short time.”

EMSB disappointed with outcome

The move comes after Roberge vowed he would directly inform EMSB parents of his final verdict about school transfers before publicly revealing the details.

Shortly after parents received their letters, EMSB chairperson Angela Mancini condemned the province’s decision in a statement issued Thursday evening.

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“We are very disappointed with this news and have done everything possible to save these school buildings,” she said. “We will now review all recourses available to us.”

WATCH: (June 21, 2019) Montreal police called to EMSB meeting

Click to play video: 'Montreal police called to EMSB meeting' Montreal police called to EMSB meeting
Montreal police called to EMSB meeting – Jun 21, 2019

The school board will hold a town hall next Tuesday for parents, administrators and governing board members from John Paul I and General Vanier schools.

A contingency plan will be presented at the meeting, according to the EMSB.

‘I feel like I’ve had my insides ripped from me’

For Antonio Zaruso, whose eight-year-old daughter attends General Vanier, the province’s order to hand over the school comes as a blow.

“I feel like I’ve had my insides ripped from me,” he said. “It really hurts.”

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Zaruso, who is also a member of the school’s governing board, said the EMSB failed to act in time to save their institutions. The school’s board’s decision to launch a major school consultation earlier this week comes as too little, too late, he added.

“They played Russian roulette with our school,” said Zaruso.

READ MORE: Police called to EMSB special meeting after parents express anger, frustration at board announcement

— With files from Global News’ Jamie Orchard

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