Parents voice frustration with minister, EMSB over possible school closures

Parents with the English Montreal School Board are expressing dismay and frustration with the board and the education minister in the wake of news that three schools may be forcibly handed over to the Commission Scolaire Pointe-de-l'Île.

Minister Jean-François Roberge sent a letter to that effect to the EMSB yesterday in a bid to solve the problem of overcrowding at the French language schools.

Roberge said he was forced to issue the ultimatum because the problem has been languishing for at least two years and the boards, notably the EMSB, have done nothing to solve it.

The EMSB said past proposals "were not doable" and they've continued to work on the issue.

The three schools that could be handed over are John Paul I junior high school and General Vanier elementary in St-Leonard and Gerald McShane elementary in Montreal-North.

"By identifying three schools, he has made that very difficult for us to come up with alternative scenarios," said chairperson Angela Mancini at a news conference held at General Vanier elementary.

Mancini said she's glad the minister is at least open to other solutions — sharing schools is among their proposals. They have 30 days to come up with suggestions or the minister will use his special powers to order the transfer.

Parents of General Vanier students blamed both the board's infighting and the minister's unilateral manoeuvres for the impasse.

The EMSB wanted to give the Galileo Adult Education Centre to the French board but Roberge said that was unacceptable because it would mean moving and disrupting special-needs adult students.

The EMSB is having two public meetings next week to address the matter.