Parents in western Montreal, lacking public English high schools, are pushing the EMSB to build one

Johanna Miller’s oldest child is still three years away from attending high school -- but the mother of three is already worried about where the girl will be going.

Her children are at Edinburgh Elementary School in NDG in Grades 4 and 1, and Miller, like many parents in the area, says there's a lack of high school options in the area.

A group of parents has decided to take action and lobby the English Montreal School Board to build a new facility. They plan to present a petition to build a new, public, mainstream high school in the area west of Decarie Blvd.

The EMSB currently has three high schools in that zone, but they're specialized.

Royal Vale and Royal West Academy are considered alternative high schools, since they offer accelerated learning programs. John Grant High School in Cote-Saint-Luc caters to those with learning difficulties.

Miller says the nearest public, bilingual option for her children is Westmount High School.

“The EMSB is very good at advertising 'etre bilingue, c’est gagnant’ and we’d like to have our children continue winning in the bilingual avenue,” she says.

“However, without there being another option, we will end up losing.”

She says many parents she knows are already discussing switching to a French high school or going to nearby private schools.

“Some friends that we’ve spoken to, they’re already worried about having to start saving money for private school,” she said.

Simon Becker is also part of the parents’ group. His oldest son, Michael, is high-functioning autistic and currently attends Hampstead School, while his younger son is at Royal Vale.

Becker says he doesn’t have a choice but to send his older son to private Centennial Academy, which is downtown, because none of the high schools in his area offer a suitable program.

He says if a new school opens, he could send both his sons there and it would help maintain a sense of community, which is vital for Michael.

“I can solve 'where can he go to school' with money, to go to private school," he said.

"It’s the community aspect he’ll be missing. It will completely separate him from his friends and social support network.”

The EMSB says it's true that enrolment in the board's western schools has been on the rise.

“We know our West End elementary schools, in many cases, are bursting at the seams, which is very positive,” says spokesperson Mike Cohen.

“The enrolment at Westmount High, Royal West and Royal Vale are extremely high, pretty much full to capacity each year.”

But there are needs in other areas, too, he said, mentioning Riviere-des-Prairies in particular. That area has three elementary schools and no high school.

Cohen says the board is open to hearing the parents’ proposal, but there is no precedent for the EMSB building a new, mainstream facility. (The board did open the brand-new Mackay Centre in 2018, but that school is for students with learning disablities.)

“In the 22 years the EMSB has been in existence, we have not built a brand new school,” says Cohen.

The next public school board meeting is May 5.

LISTEN LIVE ON CJAD 800 RADIO: Kerfuffle between the English boards & the provincial government. RUSSELL COPEMAN, executive director of The Quebec English School Boards Association 


 

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