Quebec Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge responds to the Opposition during question period Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at the legislature in Quebec City.
Jacques Boissinot / THE CANADIAN PRESS
Education Minister Jean-François Roberge has moved to ease the fears of parents over school transfers saying he understands their concerns and wants to avoid imposing a solution from the top down.But he says the English Montreal School Board needs to rapidly show it is serious in its intention to negotiate cohabitation agreements – he wants a signed deal – with francophone boards because the clock is ticking and there are 3,000 students who will not have classrooms come September.Three days after accusing the EMSB of being stubborn in voting in favour of moving special needs students out of the Galileo school despite his stated opposition, Roberge said his office has been flooded with calls and messages from worried parents.Roberge told reporters parents have expressed concerns about his ultimatum to transfer three youth sector schools to the Commission scolaire de la Pointe-de-l’Île (CSPI) if the EMSB does not come up with a better idea by June 10.The schools are General Vanier elementary school and John Paul I junior high school in St-Léonard and Gerald McShane elementary school in Montreal-North.“I understand them,” Roberge told reporters while attending a Coalition Avenir Québec party general council meeting Saturday in Montreal. “I think they are aware and maybe some of them are afraid of the transfer of those three schools.“I really hope both school boards will come to an agreement and find a solution so I won’t have to transfer those three schools. We are really open minded and we hope some cohabitation could be a short term solution.“But both boards have to come to an agreement before June 10 if they want us to avoid the transfer.”Roberge conceded chronic infighting at the EMSB has not helped in the current crisis and urged parents to keep up the pressure so it gets moving.“If it comes from the parents, maybe EMSB will listen and I hope they will,” Roberge said. “It’s true the commissioners have some difficulties to agree among themselves.“I won’t say it (the EMSB) is dysfunctional. I keep hope. It’s possible. I am saying to the EMSB, ‘Listen to your parents.’“They are worried. They are calling us. They understand the government putting in place this ultimatum because they see themselves there are students who will have no schools in September if nothing is done.“Parents want alternatives to this transfer. They want an anglophone francophone cohabitation for the short term. In the short term, this is a solution which is acceptable.“It is possible to come up with an agreement if they are serious about doing it.”Roberge insisted his hands are tied when it comes to the cohabitation idea because his powers do not allow him to impose such arrangements leaving him only the power to transfer schools to solve over-crowding.Roberge used that power to recently announce the transfer of Riverdale High school to the francophone sector.“As a minister I can’t impose a cohabitation,” he said. “I have suggested this path many times over the last months, hoping the school boards agree in the short term. They never went this route. The CSPI was open to doing it but the EMSB has never signed such an agreement.“If a cohabitation agreement is not signed I will do the transfer because the status quo is untenable. A draft proposal is not sufficient.”He repeated that postponing or extending the June 10 deadline is not an option because September is closing in firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter.com/phlipauthierRelated