After a long fight to save its choir program, the Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal is beginning the new school year on a high note.
The organization announced on Monday the Quebec government will be providing direct funding over the next three years to keep the choir alive.
“It is a great mark of recognition on the part of the government towards our institution and a commitment to ensure our sustainability,” said Pierre Éloi Talbot, president of the board of directors, in a statement.
For 63 years, an agreement with the Commission Scolaire de Montréal (CSDM) has allowed choir members to be educated at a practice facility at private school, College Notre-Dame.
However, the school board announced earlier this year that the deal had come to an end and high school students would be transferred to the public system.
At the time, staff and students voiced concerns over whether the program would be able to continue. The elite choir is a program that supports artistic boys who have been singing at Sunday masses at the St-Joseph’s Oratory for decades.
The Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal has been fighting for months to save the program. Singers held demonstrations and a petition that was launched on behalf of the members garnered more than 17,000 signatures.
After the province passed a unanimous motion in May to keep the choir alive, the singers called on the education ministry to intervene in June.
A spokesperson for Education Minister Jean-François Roberge says the CSDM was unable to propose a solution that would ensure “the sustainability” of the program and the province intervened to “ensure that this cultural institution is preserved” until the program moves to the public sector.
The Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal says the province’s investment will help the choir find a long-term solution within the public education system without having to cut the program. It will also help maintain the quality of education and respect scheduling constraints related to choir rehearsals.
In a statement, the CSDM says it is still offering students the chance to continue their high school studies at Académie De Roberval. The school board says the public school “adequately meets” the demands of parents.
Académie De Roberval is located approximately 10 kilometres away from the choir’s practice facility, which is next to the Saint Joseph’s Oratory.
Nayiri Piloyan, whose two children are members of the choir, says the move would add nearly two hours to their daily commute.
“It’s inimaginable,” she said.
Talbot believes that the ordeal was sparked by a political move by the CSDM.
“They are clearly against private schooling in Quebec, which is fine, I understand that there can be a debate,” he said.
“But what we don’t understand, though, is that the conclusion of this debate was to close our school.”
He hopes that the government will renew the funding after three years.
In the meantime, he says the choir community will work toward finding long-term solutions.
WATCH BELOW: Movement to save Les Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal
— With files from Global News’ Brittany Henriques and Shakti Langlois-Ortega