Liberal MNA Pierre Arcand has retracted his comments about using the Dunrae Gardens schoolyard to help deal with overcrowded French schools in the Town of Mount Royal.
But parents at Dunrae Gardens Elementary School are worried and upset by what they call a lack of transparency from their school board.
“Aside from Mr. Arcand retracting his statement and Mayor Philippe Roy saying he had no idea this was the Dunrae Gardens schoolyard, we have no other information as parents,” says Karolina Weclas. “We haven’t heard from the EMSB (English Montreal School Board) and we haven’t been assured our yard is still our yard.”
The conflict began with a post on Arcand’s Facebook page in which he pointed out that an overcrowded French school is using its schoolyard for classrooms, alongside a photo of an empty playground at the nearby English school.
In the text, Arcand writes, “Land next to the Dunrae School is available.”
Those words sent off a firestorm of reaction.
The Save Our East End Schools Facebook post called out Arcand, writing that “it is extremely irresponsible of Mr. Arcand to suggest the CAQ simply take from the English minority community.”
Others joined in, leaving comments such as, “He should mind his business,” “No to this nonsense” and “This is ridiculous.”
Weclas has three children attending Dunrae Gardens. The outdoor space is important to her, her children and their peers.
“I will still fight for my school no matter what. It’s the only outdoor space our children have, especially now during the pandemic where we should have our kids outside more often than not,” Weclas told Global News.
The EMSB Parents Committee is writing to the school board about these concerns.
“The letter really outlines what is the situation,” said Joseph Bondi, vice-chair of the committee. “We are trying to understand why is it that the school wasn’t aware that their schoolyard was going to be used, whether that is confirmed or not. Parents are upset because they were taken by surprise and there was no consultation on such a proposal.”
The provincial English Parents’ Committee Association (EPCA) also wants to know why the school board hasn’t spoken out yet.
“I just want to give the benefit of the doubt to the school board just because we are in a pandemic situation and we are at the start of the school year but I don’t know why they haven’t come out,” says president Katherine Korakakis.
The EPCA says there were other land options to could help the Marguerite-Bourgeoys service centre deal with overcrowding in the French school system.
“There’s a whole church that was demolished. Why didn’t they use that to create a school? There’s a whole thing with Royalmount — why didn’t the mayor carve out a piece to build the school there?” Korakakis told Global News.
The EMSB is releasing a school infrastructure statement on Friday. The board says it will address Dunrae Gardens and other school properties.