The Council of Commissioners at the Lester B. Pearson School Board has voted in favour of closing three elementary schools in the West Island.

The three schools that will close are Jubilee Elementary School in Pointe Claire, Bishop Whelan Elementary School in Dorval, and Purcell Academy in Pierrefonds.


Among the various changes and relocations proposed at Monday's meeting, commissioners voted in favour of moving Terry Fox School into the building that currently serves Purcell Academy.

Bishop Whelan will merge with Meadowbrook Elementary school in Lachine and form a new "dual entry" school, offering both a bilingual program and an early immersion program in cycle one.

The vote to shut down Jubilee and send its 200 students to neighbouring elementary schools was a close one, with 12 commissioners voting in favour of shutting it down, and nine voting against.

Parent Lynn Desrochers, who moved from Vaudreuil so that her nine-year-old daughter could attend the elementary school, was devastated by the news.

She rushed from the auditorium after the vote, and began to cry as she started describe how difficult the transition will be for her daughter -- who has already been through one school change.

"I wanted a better school for my daughter...she is the happiest kid. Everyday, she comes home and she tells me how much she loves her school and her teachers," said Desrochers.

Wendy Clifford, who also has a daughter in grade four attending Jubilee, said it's a big loss for the community.

"I just wish people had come into our building and seen the vitality and seen how vibrant the community is," Clifford said.

"It's a hard transition for the children, for the staff, the teachers, for the parents. It doesn't make sense, really, that's what's sad about it," she said.

Enrolment Plunges

In the past four years, the school board has lost 2,300 students - enough to fill six elementary schools.

The steady decline has been blamed on a combination of a low birth-rate, competition from French and private schools, as well as government policies, including Bill 101, the law that requires children born out-of-province to attend French elementary and high schools.

A Supreme Court of Canada ruling in October on Bill 104 re-opened a loophole allowing immigrant students to attend English public school after spending a year in the English private system.

The school board said the strict language laws leave them with no choice but school closures.

"The government is currently looking at how to legitimize Bill 104. I think it's important that everyone let their MNAs know that it's not acceptable to put any more restraints on English schools in Quebec," said LBPSB President Marcus Tabachnik.

At the moment, English schools can only do their best to make themselves more attractive to the 20 per cent of potential students who choose French and private schools over English. As an incentive, the commissioners have voted to bolster French as of next year.

"The content itself, the day, the atmosphere, is going to be far more bilingual to re-inforce the French training that the kids got in their elementary schools," said Tabachnik.