EMSB commissioners push for high school swap instead of primary school transfers

Several English Montreal School Board commissioners are planning to ask the provincial Education Minister to swap two high schools in the east-end, instead of transferring three English schools to the Commission scolaire de la Pointe-de-l’Île.

The Montreal Gazette is reporting that on Monday night at a special board meeting, a group of parents from Rivière-des-Prairies will request that Montreal-North's Lester B. Pearson High School be transferred to the CSPI, while that school board's École secondaire Jean Grou, in R.D.P., be moved to the EMSB's control.

That move alone would open up 1,000 new spots in the east-end's French-language board.  Right now, Pearson isn't even half full — fewer than 1,000 students attend the school, which can accomodate 2,000.

It would also give the English-language school board a high school in R.D.P., where about 70% of Pearson students currently live.  A popular Facebook petition has been asking for an English high school in the borough for some time now.

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge informed the EMSB last week that he plans to transfer St. Léonard's Gerald McShane Elementary and John Paul 1 Junior High School and Montreal-North's General Vanier Elementary to the French-language school system to deal with chronic overcrowding at the CSPI.  After outrage, he gave the board until the middle of next month to find an alternative solution.

Joe Ortona, the EMSB's Vice-Chair, told The Gazette that he supports the proposed high school swap instead, but added that Roberge would still have to use his power under the Education Act to force the swap, because if the decision were taken by traditional means between the two boards, the EMSB would be required to hold an 18-month public consultation process.  The CSPI needs new classrooms earlier than that — as early as September.

The special board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday evening, at the board’s head office at 6000 Fielding Ave., in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.

With files from The Montreal Gazette and the Canadian Press.