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With just days to go before the English Montreal School Board and the Commission Scolaire de la Pointe de l'Ile (CSPI) have to work out an agreement about finding space for francophone students, the boards are at an impasse.

EMSB chair Angela Mancini that her counterparts at the CSPI are no longer returning calls.

On Wednesday evening the EMSB council met to discuss what can be done to deal with the Ministry of Education's demand to find room for several thousand students.

To date the EMSB has offered to transfer Galileo High School, a large building used by adult education students that by itself has almost enough capacity for the CPSI's needs. The Minister of Education, Jean-Francois Roberge, said he would prefer the EMSB transfer three schools -- Gerald McShane in Montreal North, and John Paul I and General Vanier in St. Leonard -- to the CSPI.

Mancini said she has also tried to work out a space-sharing arrangement wherein both boards could use certain buildings, and that she outlined those plans at two official meetings with her counterparts at the CSPI.

EMSB spokesperson Michael Cohen said the CSPI is not interested in sharing space, and would now like to take all four schools that have been mentioned.

He said whatever decision is made will likely result in a court battle.

"If they don't agree to some type of compromise they would risk in a court case not getting any of the schools and then what would they be doing in September?" said Cohen.

" So we'll have to see if they're willing to come back to the drawing board and make a compromise because we are in the month of June. It's not like we're having this discussion in January or February where there might be a little bit of time. We're at the 11th hour right now."

Parents at the three schools said they are preparing for a legal fight.

"Why don't we fight it? Instead of fighting each other?" said one parent, urging a legal battle against the provincial government if her children's school is transferred.

Giovanni Sardo, whose children go to Gerald McShane, said he believes the infighting among EMSB commissioners has played a role, as the board struggles to react to an Education Minister who is moving extremely quickly on life-altering decisions.

"It's already havoc in the morning trying to get the kids fed and dressed and get the school bags to the right school and if you make us go to the Saint Michel area it's going to cause great delays. We have to look at the strain that it's going to do on our jobs and everything else. It's a scary time," said Sardo.

Roberge said the boards need to work out a deal by June 10 or he would impose a solution.

 

With assistance from Max Harrold