As back-to-school season begins, some students in the English Montreal School Board are adjusting in more ways than one.

Many changes are underway at the EMSB for the 2019-2020 school year.

Students from Westmount Park School are starting their school year in the St. John Bosco Elementary School building due to renovations. The 105-year-old Westmount Park facility will be closed for two academic years to complete the $12-million project.

The move was decided back in January: Half of the 700 Westmount Park students will attend St. John Bosco in Ville-Emard, a facility that has been closed for seven years, and half will attend Marymount Academy in NDG for the next two years.

The kids filled the gym Tuesday morning, where they were welcomed by EMSB chair Angela Mancini along with David Lametti, who serves as Canada's justice minister, attorney general and MP for LaSalle, Ville Emard and Verdun.

Meantime, the EMSB is facing several challenges ahead. Back in June, a judge denied an injunction request from the EMSB to stop the transfer of two of its schools to the overcrowded Pointe-de-l'Ile School Board: General Vanier Elementary School and John Paul I Junior High School. Those schools will be hosted in new buildings: Pierre de Coubertin and Laurier Macdonald. 

There's also the issue of Bill 21: The EMSB back-peddled on its stance on the bill that prohibits teachers from wearing any religious symbols while on the job.

"It's unfortunate, however, the government put in at the last minute in the legislation that our director general is directly responsible for application of this law, putting us in a very precarious situation as a council. But we're still going to take a look at it, because it is a value that we hold dear as a school board," said Mancini. "Certainly we're not going to put our director general in a position where she could be in trouble with the law and that's where I think the boards are in a very precarious situation."

The very future of the EMSB is also at stake, with the CAQ government planning to abolish school boards in favour of service centres.

"This will be a challenging year for us. Education as a whole, and in particular English education for me, is really under siege right now with what the government wants to do," said Mancini. 


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