Parents of students at Dunrae Gardens Elementary school in the Town of Mount Royal (TMR) have been breathing a little easier since the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) announced that a decision had not been made to transfer a portion of their school yard to build a much-needed French school in the community.
“There’s no deal. There’s nothing substantial that was said or agreed upon and that’s why I guess the EMSB didn’t feel the need to have to say something,” said Dunrae Gardens Elementary School governing board member Karolina Weclas, who also has three children attending the school.
“It reassures me that my school board is still part of the discussion and it’s not something that the Quebec government just decides to do then takes away our school yard or our school.”
A firestorm was first sparked by local MNA Pierre Arcand’s Facebook post earlier this month. He wrote the “land next to the Dunrae School is available,” with a photo of the empty spacious school yard, next to a photo of the mobile-classroom cluttered school yard of Académie St-Clement, insinuating it was the perfect place to build a new school.
The statement was later deleted and Arcand apologized while insisting the proposed takeover was an idea expressed by the Marguerite-Bourgeois service centre (formerly school board).
“We want to make it clear that various scenarios involving many existing and projected schools were discussed,” said EMSB trustee Marlene Jennings in a statement on Friday about ongoing discussions with other boards and the education ministry.
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“Never again should our school board be forced to accept changes or school transfers as it has been the case in the past.”
While nothing is set in stone, an EMSB spokesperson said nothing has been ruled out.
“We’re not saying it’s on the table or off the table,” said the EMSB’s Mike Cohen. “We’re saying there’s no substantial discussion going on at the school that would require us to do any consultation because there’s nothing right now to report.”
Parents still have a long list of concerns, from increased traffic in an already busy neighbourhood to a lack of consultation in the wake of forced school transfers in June of 2019.
Despite a promise from the education minister on Sept. 3 that there was no plan to transfer schools, parents worry it doesn’t mean school properties won’t be subject to transfers.
“The question that was asked was wrong. No one asked him, ‘are you planning to take away any more land or a school yard?'” said Weclas.
The English Parents’ Committee Association (EPCA) is calling on elected officials, including the mayor, to find other solutions that don’t involve taking over their much-needed school yard.
“You can’t just treat the community as if they’re cattle — ‘we’ll move you from there to put you here.’ You can’t do that. The school is almost full, you know; leave the school alone,” said EPCA’s president Katherine Korakakis, also an EMSB parent.
“There was a church that was demolished. You know, they made condos with that. Perhaps they could have built a school there. If it’s such an emergency situation, they can find other spaces.”
The Marguerite-Bourgeois service centre and Quebec’s education ministry did not respond to Global News’ request for a comment on the fate of the Dunrae Gardens’ school yard.
TMR’s mayor told Global News that he doesn’t know if the property is still one of the proposed locations for the future French school.