Lester B. Pearson School Board closing, merging multiple schools
The Lester B. Pearson School Board has decided to close multiple schools and put the buildings up for sale.
Two schools will shut down entirely, while students at eight other schools will be finding new classmates.
School board chair Suanne Stein Day confirmed the changes in a meeting Monday night, saying she felt it was the wisest decision for the board.
"We honestly believe this is the right thing to do, because we are spending an awful lot of money on maintenance of the school," she said. "We really don’t want to be investing our money in brick and mortars; we want to be investing our money in resources for the classroom."
Lakeside Academy and the board's International Language Centre in Pointe-Claire are slated to close.
Eight other schools will merge. They are:
- Thorndale Elementary moves into Greendale;
- Orchard Elementary moves into St. Lawrence Elementary, Jr. and Sr.;
- Riverview Elementary moves into Verdun Elementary;
- Sherwood Forest Elementary and St. Paul Elementary will merge to create a junior and senior elementary school.
As has happened many times in the past, most of the schools that are being closed or merged have a very high vacancy rate. While there is growing enrolment in some off-island schools, five high schools on-island under the Lester B. board have less than 50 per cent enrolment.
Lakeside Academy, for example, is only 37 per cent full. The school was created in 2001 with the merger of two former schools: Lachine High School and Bishop Whelan High School.
"This is really important because the ministry has given us every indication to believe that if we don’t close our low-occupancy schools, they’ll close them for us," said Stein Day, explaining that this way the school board could determine the best way to reassign the students.
Enrolment has been steadily dropping as parents of children eligible to attend English schools instead choose to send them to private schools or to French school boards, despite the superior academic achievements of the English boards.
The school board said the funds now used to maintain low-occupancy buildings will be reallocated for better use.
"A small elementary school costs us about $1 million in maintenance and administration. If we close that school, that $1 million going into our operating fund that we can use," said Stein Day.
A presentation was made Monday night followed by a vote in order to begin the process to bring in the changes for the 2016-2017 school year.
All students including the IB students will be easily absorbed into other high schools.
“I'm sure that we'll be able to reassure them that we have a quality program here, we're a fully accredited IB program,” explained Jennifer Kurta, the principal of LaSalle Comprehensive High School.
As for what this means for English education: “There is reason for concern but we still have a solid base and we will continue to fight for them,” said Stein Day.
The Lester B. Pearson School Board closed six schools in 2005-2006, and three more schools were shut down in 2009 and 2010. See the map below for a complete list of EMSB and Lester B. Pearson school openings and closings since 1998.
Prior to the announcement LBPSB Teacher’s Union president John Donnelly said many schools within the board are under-utilized.
Joanne McKinnis, is the mother of three children in Grades 10, 8 and 5, said she doesn’t feel stressed about the merger.
"I think the children are fine, and you have to do what makes fiscal sense, so if schools need to merge, then schools need to merge," she said.
She added that her oldest daughter’s elementary school had already merged with another school, the year after her daughter finished Kindergarten.
She agrees the school closure was necessary, because her school was only at 50 per cent capacity.
"It felt empty and then the resources can’t be distributed as well as they could be if the school was full," she said. "Change happens."
The school board said the mergers would not eliminate jobs, although it would see administrative roles decrease through attrition.
The buildings, which are owned by the Ministry of Education, will be offered to French school board Marguerite Bourgeoys before being put on the open market.
All these decisions can be appealed, but only under certain circumstances, explained Darren Kotania of the Central Parents’ Committee.
“My understanding is, new elements have to be brought that warrants such a review,” he said.
This map shows which schools offer Immersion programs (50-80 percent French), Bilingual programs (up to 50 percent French), or English core programs (limited French classes).