ESMB formally moves four schools into two buildings

The English Montreal School Board has officially decided how it will cope with the provincial government seizing two buildings, while not knowing exactly how many students will be attending its schools in St. Leonard.

Commissioners voted Wednesday to move schools and share space, effectively running four schools inside two buildings.

The move comes after a springtime showdown with the Education Minister which ended with Jean-Francois Roberge using a special cabinet decree to order the EMSB to seize two buildings in St. Leonard and hand the schools to the Commission Scolaire de la Pointe de l'Ile.

As a result the EMSB has decided that General Vanier elementary students will move into the building that also houses Pierre de Coubertin school, while students from John Paul I high school will squeeze into the building that is home to Laurier Macdonald.

Teachers and staff will move as well, and each school will maintain its own identity while sharing space.

Parents of the existing Pierre de Coubertin students are trying to figure out how best to adapt to the influx of students from General Vanier.

"We're happy that the ... General Vanier community is coming but it does mean a sacrifice and essentially both communities would be sacrificing, would have to accept a reduction in the instruction time for art and music and so on," said Maria Corsi, a parent with children at Pierre de Coubertin.

Ten of the classrooms at Pierre de Coubertin have been allocated to General Vanier while most of the specialty classes have lost their designated rooms.

Instead the teachers for specialty classes will have to keep their equipment on carts and wheel them from room to room -- what the board is calling a "mobile classroom."

"If there's an opportunity to be able to recover these classrooms then we would be more than happy to share it with the General Vanier children and so that we all have our allotted time," said Corsi.

The addition of new students means that Pierre de Coubertin School will be operating at full capacity, which according to board chair Angela Mancini brings challenges.

"I think it's important that we do everything that we can to ensure that that transition with the students and the staff will be working together," said Mancini.

School officials are considering moving the drop-off point for school buses, and planning how to handle a parking lot that will suddenly be very crowded.

"I think you'll find that some of the briefs that some of the parents have brought forward... have come up with some very concrete safety and security issues, when it came to parking, when it came to bussing," said Mancini.

Registration at the EMSB resumed Thursday, and the board is not certain how many students will remain, since it believes some children will switch boards rather than move schools.

Meanwhile the EMSB's court action to have the schools returned continues, with the board arguing the transfer was a violation of the constitution.

The first day of school is Sept. 3.