EMSB school transfers: school board brought this on itself, says education minister

Quebec's education minister says they were forced into the position of having to possibly order the transfer of three of the English Montreal School Board's schools to the Commission scolaire de la Pointe-de-l'île to help ease overcrowding at its schools.

Jean-François Roberge said at a news conference this morning that the problem has been dragging on for years and that the EMSB should have dealt with it sooner.

"It's not a bad idea to transfer those three schools, it's a good idea. But in fact, I would prefer that they do so and they take some action and they find their own solution," said Roberge.

They have 30 days to come up with those solutions, otherwise he'll order the handover. Roberge said they'll discuss the issue further with the boards during that time.

The schools on the chopping block are: General Vanier elementary school and John Paul I junior high school in St-Leonard and Gerald McShane elementary school in Montreal-North.

Roberge said those schools were chosen because they'll be able to accommodate enough of the French language board's students  and there are enough English board schools nearby that can handle the transfer of students.

"This decision, while tempting, should not be seen as English versus French, it should be seen as what's best for Quebecers," said MNA responsible for relations with English-speaking Quebecers Christopher Skeete.

Roberge had sent a letter yesterday to both boards about his ultimatum that was leaked via the EMSB's Facebook page.

Roberge said he "severely deplores with great sadness" that the EMSB decided to leak the letter instead of keeping it confidential as he had requested and to break the news to the community personally.

The issue began with a proposal by the EMSB to transfer the Galileo Adult Education Centre to the French board and move the special-needs adult students elsewhere, an idea that Roberge rejected because of the impact on those students.