EMSB asks for more time as education minister threatens to impose overcrowding solution
The English Montreal School Board’s standoff with the education ministry got even more tense on Wednesday night as EMSB commissioners insisted they need more time to examine a proposed solution to overcrowding.
Last month, the Quebec government asked the EMSB for help in easing overcrowding in the French-language Commission scolaire de la Pointe-de-l’Ile. The EMSB proposed handing over the Galileo Adult Education Centre to the French board, which would result in the transfer of over 100 special needs adults to a different facility four kilometres away.
Both the ruling Coalition Avenir Quebec and the Quebec Liberal Party opposed the proposal, saying it would be harmful to the students, some of whom have difficulty adapting to change.
Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge has said the Francophone students need 150 classrooms by September and should the EMSB fail to come up with a new proposal, he will impose a solution that could include forcing boards to share buildings or simply forcing the EMSB to vacate a building.
During a special meeting on Wednesday night, EMSB commissioners said they will hold consultations later this month, but may not have a new solution within Roberge’s three-week timeframe.
“Co-habitation is not a viable option. Both boards have expressed that so I don’t know why he thinks that we should be imposing that on our schools,” said Commissioner Joe Ortona. “Closing schools, handing over schools is not an option. I’ve even gone one step further than we really have to by saying ‘Let’s look at the possibility of swapping schools, where we can maintain our footing in the English community.’”
However, EMSB Chairperson Angela Mancini said the board’s priority is to stay in neighbourhoods where it currently has only a handful of schools and sharing space may be the solution.
“I think we should be having a discussion for all the schools that have been listed in either Montreal-North, St-Leonard, Anjou areas with those parents there and with our EMSB Parents’ Committee,” she said. “That’s something I haven’t understood, why we haven’t gone that route. I think people that feel it could worry people… it now has worried them even more.”
A spokesperson for Roberge said the ministry hopes the two boards can reach an agreement on sharing facilities.
“We still hope an agreement will come quickly,” they said. “It’s important that an agreement be made in time for the next school year.”