Montreal

Parent blasts 'downright dangerous' need to wait overnight to secure spot at EMSB schools

Parents at Royal Vale and Edinburgh Elementary started waiting days in advance of registration on Monday morning.

Parents at Royal Vale and Edinburgh Elementary started waiting days in advance of registration

The lineup at Royal Vale Elementary in NDG has evolved into a serious winter camping setup over the years. (CBC)

Parents have been braving the cold to line up days ahead of official registration in order to secure a spot for their child at one of several English Montreal School Board elementary schools in the city's West End.

Adrienne Winrow and her husband have been taking turns waiting since Friday at 7 p.m. for registration at Edinburgh Elementary in Montreal West, which will start on Monday morning.

She said that about 40 people were turned away last year and that the parents camping out for spots don't even know for sure how many openings there are.

"This waiting outside in line is downright dangerous and bottom line, it's discriminatory against people who do not have the resources to do this," said Winrow, who is trying to secure a spot for her son.

Parents have been lining up at Edinburgh School since Friday afternoon in advance of the Monday registration. (CBC)

She said these in-advance lineups happen every year and the school board should be taking action to put a better system in place.

"They knew this was coming. They needed to have an action plan so that there weren't parents sitting outside all night, for three nights in the freezing cold," she said. "It's downright dangerous."

Winrow said it was important for her that her son attend a school in their neighbourhood, one she herself attended as a girl.

She called the EMSB registration practices "murky," saying that there was a lot of confusion from parents who tried to get informed and were left with more questions than answers.

Many parents are sitting in their idling cars outside the school all night to keep warm. (CBC)

Edinburgh Elementary held a public meeting earlier this week to address its overcrowding problem, with school administrators saying their building is 25 per cent over its maximum capacity.

At the meeting, potential solutions were put on the table, including reducing enrolment, adding mobile units or creating an annex.

Joe Ortona, EMSB vice-chair, said on Thursday that the school board hopes to come to a decision by Feb. 20.

"We are going to be open to all of the proposals and we're going to seriously consider all of the proposals," said Ortona. "But in the end, there is a decision, one decision that is going to be made, and it's going to be the one we feel is best for everybody."

Parents wait in the cold year after year

The convention of parents lining up overnight in the cold at Royal Vale in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce has been going on for years.

Royal Vale accepts students from across the island while Edinburgh is zoned for families living in the neighbourhood.

Despite promises to re-evaluate the system, no changes have been put in place, despite suggestions from parents that the school board set up a lottery or bracelet method where parents can mark their place in line.

EMSB spokesperson Michael Cohen said the situation has become even more competitive than usual and board members are expecting parents will start lining up for Merton Elementary in Côte Saint-Luc on Sunday.

"We are bursting at the seams in our West End schools," he said in an e-mail.

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