Montreal

Excitement, nerves as Montreal students face new school year in new buildings

Nine-year-old Charlie Iacono is among the hundreds of Montreal students starting class this year in a new building after authorities shuffled facilities to deal with overcrowded schools.

Across the city, buildings were shuffled to deal to deal with overcrowded classrooms

Charlie Iacono, Sue Iasenzaniro and Simona Iacono in front of Pierre-de-Coubertin Elementary School Tuesday. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

Nine-year-old Charlie Iacono is among the hundreds of Montreal students starting class this year in a new building after authorities shuffled facilities to deal with overcrowded schools.

"I'm excited and a bit nervous," he said Tuesday.

"I'm excited to see my friends and teachers and nervous because I will be in a new building with a lot of new faces."

He was at General Vanier and now is starting the school year at Pierre-de-Coubertin Elementary School in the Saint-Léonard borough.

His old school was taken over by a French-language school board, the Commission scolaire de la Pointe-de-l'Île, as part of the provincial government's plan to deal with a shortage of class space. 

Evie Arvanitakis, who has boys in grades 4 and 6, said it was sad to bid farewell to General Vanier.

"There's a sadness that we're losing a school that they have been at for four plus years," she said.

"The kids seem to feel comfortable since they are with each other and I think that's what's important."

Students were welcomed back to Pierre-de-Coubertin Elementary School Tuesday. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

The move isn't without its challenges, however. Anna Maria Tirelli said her son had trouble sleeping the night before his first day.

"He doesn't know what to expect," she said. "He has all these questions. It's very confusing."

Riverdale students on the move

In the West Island, Riverdale High School was merged with Pierrefonds Comprehensive High School to become the Pierrefonds Community High School.

Quebec's Education Ministry forced the closure of Riverdale to accommodate an overflow of students in the French-language school system.

Sarina Jager, who is among roughly 300 Riverdale students on the move, said she was nervous about starting at a new school until she spotted her vice-principal, Lori McKergow, who is also at her new school.

The two were quick to embrace when they saw each other in the new building.

"I'm feeling the energy levels are bouncing all over the place," McKergow said.

"Now all these kids from the same community are together in the same building."

Crowded English schools in NDG

In NDG, Willingdon School has been divided into a junior and senior campus as its longtime location on Terrebonne Street was bursting at the seams.

The older students headed to the old St. Ignatius School building at the corner of Somerled and Coronation avenues. Its backyard is Loyola Park.

Though she is sad to say goodbye to her old campus and the new location has a "pretty small gym," Grade 6 student Marjorie Ferguson said she is ready to face a new year in a new building.

Grade 6 student Marjorie Ferguson said she is ready to face a new year in Willingdon School's new senior campus. Her mother, Tracy Brown, was there on the first day Tuesday. (Kate McKenna/CBC)

"I'm honestly feeling pretty confident and I'm excited to see the change," she said, noting the building had been renovated before the start of the school year.

Tracy Brown, Ferguson's mother, said she has seen the new annex as a new opportunity and school officials did a good job keeping her informed of what to expect.

"They had a challenging situation where the school was running out of space and they seized an opportunity," she said.

"And the kids are super excited to be going."

Next door to Willingdon School's senior campus, Sainte-Catherine-de-Sienne, a French-language school, is opening for the first time since the old facility was demolished and rebuilt due to a mould problem first discovered in 2014.

The new, $13-million building has eight more classrooms for a total of 20 and a double gym. In the interim, students from the area had been bussing to a school on Upper Lachine Road.

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak, Kate McKenna, Shari Okeke and Simon Nakonechny

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