Students, parents and teachers formed a chain around General Vanier Elementary school in Montreal on June 5, 2019.
John Kenney / Montreal Gazette
Parents whose children attend a school in the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) are upset over the government’s decision to transfer two of the board’s schools to a French board. They don’t know what awaits their children this fall.Sophie De Vito, the mother of an incoming student at John Paul I High, said her 12-year-old daughter “is not happy. She’s sad. She doesn’t know where she is going in September.”The Legault government transferred General Vanier and John Paul I to the Commission scolaire de la Pointe-de-l’Île (CSPI) to ease overcrowding. Education Minister Jean-François Roberge sent a letter to parents of EMSB children Thursday around 5 p.m., but not all of them found out through an email. Some discovered the news through social media or various group texts with other parents.“Right now, until we know more we are in limbo,” said De Vito, who has already bought her daughter’s school uniform.“I am devastated. I was a student at John Paul, 41 years ago, so for me it’s part of my community,” she said. “The way it was done was not kosher.”Wherever De Vito’s daughter ends up, it will take her longer to get to school than the five minutes it would have taken to get to John Paul I, she said.De Vito said her daughter had chosen John Paul I, which housed Secondary 1 and 2 students, for the smaller and more intimate classrooms.“Because of her anxiety and her difficulties, it would have given her more comfort,” De Vito said.“I really thought (Jean-François Roberge) would put a hold on it and he would go for cohabitation, and that would have been an easier transition.I just felt like he took us for fools for the last few months, like we were just beating around the bush, and all the walkouts and the rallies we did were for nothing.”“I don’t think he wants the French community to fraternize with the English community. I just felt like he took us for fools for the last few months, like we were just beating around the bush, and all the walkouts and the rallies we did were for nothing,” De Vito said. “There was no fighting for us.”EMSB chairperson Angela Mancini was also upset.“I’m very upset with the minister. He told us he believed in cohabitation as a short-term model. It is obviously not what he has retained.”Mancini said Roberge has been “insensitive” and has caused an “emotional impact on the little people, the parents and the staff involved,” saying public consultations are very important for such big changes.Said parent Sonia Matos, who has twins at General Vanier and a son at John Paul I: “I think they are holding a lot of stuff in” when asked how her children were handling the news of the transfer.“A lot of kids now suffer from anxiety, and I don’t think it’s a good position to put them in,” said Matos, adding that the way the situation was handled by EMSB and the minister is “unjustified and cruel.”However, she hopes parents will be able to choose which school in their area is best suited for their kids.Bob Reda, governing board chair at General Vanier, and Matos said the EMSB should have acted sooner.“Up until last night they kept ignoring our opinions,” said Reda, adding that the scenarios proposed Wednesday night at an EMSB special meeting came in too late.“We were blindsided,” Matos said. “I hope (EMSB) does go to court.”While many parents are vexed by the minister’s decision, some were relieved when they read his letter.Said Francesca Pitruzzello, whose children attend Gerald McShane School: “We’re happy our school was spared, but it’s bittersweet because I was hoping he wasn’t going to touch any of the other schools.”Related
Pitruzzello felt Roberge was “very disrespectful” to the English community.“It took a full page before he got to the point of what they were doing,” she said of the letter.Mancini said the board will be reviewing all possible options going forward, including but not limited to taking legal action.Laurier MacDonald High School is an option for John Paul I students, but it’s unclear where General Vanier’s students will go, Mancini said.A meeting will be held for John Paul I and General Vanier parents at Laurier MacDonald High School on Tuesday, July 2 at 7:30 firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter.com/mia_anhoury