With the fate of up to four schools at stake, decision day has come for the English Montreal School Board.
Monday marked a deadline for an ultimatum given by Quebec Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge for the EMSB to work out an agreement with the Commission Scolaire de la Pointe de L’Ile. The French board has suffered from chronic overcrowding, and the EMSB was ordered to find ways to help out.
On Monday, EMSB officials said they believed they had reached a solution involving co-habitation of several buildings, and sent a final letter to Roberge pitching the plan before the midnight deadline.
“We offered co-habitation in many of our buildings within the parameters of not transferring buildings,” said EMSB chair Angela Mancini.
While the EMSB had proposed transferring the Galileo Adult Education Centre or working out a space-sharing arrangement, the two school boards had been unable to reach an agreement before Monday.
Roberge has said that if no arrangement is reached, transferring control of Galileo, Montreal North’s Gerald McShane and St. Leonard’s John Paul I and General Vanier to CSPI control is a possibility.
“I didn’t decide if we would transfer those schools,” said Roberge. “We will listen to both school boards and hope they come to an agreement to take action. It’s a really tough decision. I don’t want to transfer some schools if we can avoid doing so.”
Parents from the schools involved say they’re waiting for an 11th-hour miracle.
“Like all the parents, my stomach is in knots,” said Assunta Iasenzaniro, the parent of three students of General Vanier. “We're anxious, we're checking social media constantly just to see if there's any glimmer of news.”
The new school year begins in less than four months. No one expected to be forced into this situation so soon, said Mancini.
“We got to this point where we got in negotiations with an ultimatum from the minister,” she said.
Parents and students are now left scrambling.
“Every time I pick up my kids and walk home it's like, ‘Okay, am I coming back here am I not coming back here?” said Iasenzaniro.