Montreal school boards mull further delays, against Legault's wishes

Classroom (CTV News)

By CTV

MONTREAL -- On top of the debate around when to reopen Montreal schools, a second argument has been brewing: who has the right to decide.

Local school boards are pushing back against Premier François Legault’s planned date of May 25, saying that even with the extra week granted Thursday, it’s too soon to be safe.

Legault disagrees that it’s up to the boards.

“It’s the decision of the parents and of the health care [authorities], not of the school boards,” he said at a press conference Thursday.

He said parents can decide if they feel secure sending their kids back.

English Montreal School Board leaders say that puts them in a difficult position. They say they’ve been working tirelessly to get its schools ready by the deadline, and they still may end up needing to tell the government it can’t be done safely.

“We're doing everything. I mean, from being able to determine, are the corridors in each school wide enough to allow two-way traffic,” to many other questions, said Marlene Jennings, the government-appointed trustee of the EMSB.

But if any of those details aren’t reassuring, they’ll have to explain exactly where the plan is falling short.

“We have to tell the government if any of our schools are not going to be able to be reopened, and why they will not be able to be reopened,” she said.

The province appointed Jennings to head the board last fall after placing it under partial trusteeship, and then renewed her position this week to last until November.

Others also wish the board didn’t need to scramble under this deadline.

“I think we should [take] until the fall and have these two months, May and June, to really sit down and talk to the teachers on the ground,” said Heidi Yetman, the president of the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers.

“We believe we're looking at a complete logistical nightmare at this particular moment,” said Caroline Phaneuf, the chair of the EMSB Parent Committee, saying the board is in the hardest-hit part of Montreal.

It’s unclear when exactly public health officials will weigh in, and if theirs is the final call—as Legault has suggested—how they’ll decide.

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