Montreal

Lester B. Pearson launches review amid budget cuts

The Lester B. Pearson school board council has voted to embark on a "major school change" consultation process to address a budget shortfall.

School board council votes to go ahead with major consultation process following budget cuts

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The Lester B. Pearson school board council has voted to embark on a "major school change" consultation process to address a budget shortfall.

The school board, one of Quebec's largest, oversees English schools from Verdun to the West Island and further west off-island.

On Monday night, council voted to start the consultation process, which will take a hard look at how the school board can save money.

School closures, program cancellations, and mergers could all be a possibility.

The consultation process will start now and carry on for the next seven months. Everyone involved with the school board is encouraged to weigh in, then council will take those suggestions and make tough decisions in the fall of 2015.

Declining enrolment

The school board serves approximately 21,000 students in the youth sector and another 8,700 in its continuing education sector, but enrolment is on the decline at the elementary and high school level.

Only 12 of Lester B. Pearson's 50 elementary and secondary schools expect to see increased enrolment between now and 2017-2018, according to the school board's own projections. 

Suanne Stein Day, chairperson of the board, said parents have made it clear more French-language teaching is a priority in the system, and the school board will put an emphasis in the hopes of increasing enrolment.

Closures not ruled out

The school board is responsible for a network of 37 elementary schools, 13 secondary schools and seven continuing education centres. It also operates alternative learning centres and international language centres. 

Even if enrolment is expected to decline, the cost of operating and heating all those buildings continues to climb.

Stein Day said the school board's vocational programs and international language centres are among two areas of growth within the school board.

She said those programs could generate revenue and fill empty space in schools where enrolment is down.

"Nobody wants to close schools," Stein Day said, though she didn't rule out the possibility that could happen.

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