Having anglophone and francophone students share school buildings is the best option for both boards, the head of the EMSB maintains.
John Kenney / Montreal Gazette
With a deadline on school transfers looming, the head of the English Montreal School Board will meet with her French counterpart this week to argue the benefits of cohabitation.Armed with the backing of most of the affected parents and a nod of approval from Quebec’s education minister, Angela Mancini will try to persuade officials at a French school board that cohabitation is a simple solution to ease overcrowding at east-end schools.“I think that cohabitation remains a solution that we could look at and the minister (Jean-François Roberge) is also speaking of it as a possibility,” Mancini said on Tuesday. “We are looking at ensuring we don’t lose schools and this is one of the ways. The community has mobilized to say they’re prepared to accept this.”The schools on the transfer list are General Vanier Elementary and John Paul I Junior High in St-Léonard, and Gerald McShane Elementary in Montreal North. Roberge has given the EMSB until June 10 to come up with an agreement to help solve the overcrowding crisis at the Commission scolaire de la Pointe-de-l’Île.Apart from cohabitation, board officials will also discuss a transfer of land owned by the EMSB that could be used to build new schools, Mancini said.She downplayed the importance of a video message on the CSPI’s website where board chair Miville Boudreault called cohabitation complex, adding, “it has too many negative aspects and too few positive ones.”“I think he was giving information to his population, his parents and teachers,” Mancini said.Having anglophone and francophone students share school buildings is the best option for both boards, she maintained.“It’s one of the better solutions on the table,” she said. “The fact that the minster is not saying that he’s going to transfer the schools no matter what, is a good thing for us.”Because of Bill 101, most immigrants to Quebec are required to attend French schools, leaving many French schools on the island of Montreal severely overcrowded.All the CSPI high schools will be full by next year and one high school will have 2,700 students in September.The CSPI’s student population has exploded over the past 18 months because of changing demographics, an increase in the number of classes requiring smaller student-teacher ratios and an influx of children whose parents have come to Quebec to seek asylum.The board now has 10 elementary schools with about 750 students and three with more than 1,000 pupils.Mancini acknowledged that many of the CSPI’s schools are overcrowded and said some teachers and professionals lack space to prepare their classes or work with students.“There’s a lack of libraries and the conditions are not the best,” she said. “But they haven’t refused any students. We are working to help alleviate the space crunch.”firstname.lastname@example.orgRelated