Montreal

Facing declining enrolment, 3 east-end English schools to close at end of year

John Paul I Junior High, St. Dorothy and General Vanier elementary schools will close at the end of June. "It's a terrible day for the English community," one parent said.

Government-appointed EMSB trustee Marlene Jennings said declining enrolment made cuts hard but necessary

The fate of several English schools in Montreal’s east end was announced Monday evening after weeks of public consultation, study and speculation.

Three English schools in Montreal's east end are shutting their doors for good at the end of the year.

Marlene Jennings, the Quebec government-appointed trustee of the English Montreal School Board, said she had no choice, given declining enrolment at the schools. 

The deeds of John Paul I Junior High, St. Dorothy and General Vanier elementary schools will be revoked at the end of June.

She began a special meeting Monday evening saying that like a plant that must be pruned to keep it healthy, so the EMSB's network must be trimmed if it is to survive.

"A major school change process can be very challenging — even stressful — especially when a school near and dear to your heart is involved," said Jennings.

"I want you to know that I recognize that and so do the members of the long-range planning committee."

Jennings was appointed to take over the powers and functions of the EMSB's commissioners last fall after a scathing report found serious irregularities in how the board was run.

John Paul I Junior High School

In Saint-Léonard, Laurier Macdonald High School and John Paul I Junior High have been sharing the high school building since the start of the school year.

The province's education minister handed the junior high school's building over to the Commission scolaire de la Pointe-de-l'Île (CSPI) last summer, despite protests from the English-speaking community, in order to ease the desperate space shortage at the neighbouring French-language board.

The junior high will be merged into the high school to allow a more efficient use of educational resources and materials, Jennings said.

The merger will be made final July 1, when John Paul I will cease to exist.

General Vanier School

General Vanier elementary school's building was also given to the CSPI last year. Students have been sharing the space with Pierre de Coubertin School since the start of the school year.

General Vanier's deed will be revoked at the end of June and the student population will then be divided between Dante School on de Lachenaie Street and Pierre de Coubertin School on Lavoisie Boulevard.

"This is the end for General Vanier, which is bittersweet after 20 years," said Jason Trudeau, whose kids attend the school. 

"This is [the school's] 20th anniversary and it will be our last one." 

New school boundaries have been drawn and bus routes planned, though some students now at Pierre de Coubertin will be allowed to stay there during a two-year transition period, to prevent students from having to move schools a second time in the space of two years.

St. Dorothy Elementary School

St. Dorothy Elementary School in Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension will be merged into Our Lady of Pompei Elementary School in Ahuntsic in July.

St. Dorothy presently has 115 students, while nearby Our Lady of Pompei Elementary School has an enrolment of 167. Both are operating more than 50 per cent below capacity.

Carlo Rossi, a parent from Our Lady of Pompei Elementary School, said he is relieved his own school will stay open, but is sympathetic to those affected.

"We're devastated for them," Rossi said. "It's a terrible day for the English community."

St. Dorothy and Our Lady of Pompei  are in two different boroughs, but only 1.2 kilometres apart, and each is able to accommodate all the English-language students in the area, Jennings said.

Of the two buildings, Our Lady of Pompei Elementary School is in better shape, she said.

More details about how these mergers and moves will take place will be available in the coming months, said Jennings.

Lester B. Pearson High School stays put, for now

In Montréal-Nord, the possibility of building a new school for students at Lester B. Pearson High School in the near future has been put on hold, Jennings said.

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