Amid fear of closures, EMSB explores opening up classrooms to French schools

The English Montreal School Board says it's open to sharing space in its lesser-used buildings, to accommodate overcrowded schools in the French-language system.

Montreal's largest English-language board is in talks with French boards — hoping to avoid another Riverdale

Dalkeith Elementary School is one of a number of east-end EMSB schools with low enrolment. (Sylvain Charest/CBC)

The English Montreal School Board is signalling a willingness to share space in its lesser-used buildings, to accommodate overcrowded schools in the French-language system.

Angela Mancini, the school board's chair, said Tuesday the EMSB is in talks with the Commission scolaire des Patriotes (CSP), as well as with the Commission scolaire de Montréal (CSDM).

"I think we're trying to find a solution to a problem so that students have space where they can be housed in terms of school," she told CBC News.

Mancini made the remarks Tuesday at Dalkeith Elementary School, one of a handful of east-end schools that have fewer than 200 students.

The CSP and CSDM are both facing a space shortage in nearby schools.

Last month, the Education Ministry announced it would close Riverdale High School in Pierrefonds this summer and turn the building over to the space-strapped Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys (CSMB).

Mancini acknowledged sharing space with French-language boards could be a way to avoid an EMSB school suffering a similar fate.

"Would it have a positive impact on the issue that we dealt with at Riverdale?" she asked. "Possibly."

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge said Tuesday he welcomed the talks.

"French school boards will continue to have huge needs, and sometimes they will need to rent some classes," he said in Quebec City.

Where is space for 4-year-olds?

Roberge's ministry will need more space to fulfil the CAQ government's promise to offer kindergarten for four-year-olds. 

More than 200 new pre-K classes are planned for next September, but the CAQ has promised 5,000 within five years.

Mancini said Roberge hasn't spoken to the EMSB about what space is available in their schools.

Opposition Education Critic Marwah Rizqy said Roberge should listen to school boards and parents, rather than plow ahead with his pre-K plan. 

He should "be more transparent and listen to his network," she said.

With files from Valeria Cori-Manocchio


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