Montreal

Anglo special-needs students on Montreal's South Shore split into 2 cramped campuses

With a burgeoning enrolment, administrators at REACH school for anglophone students with special needs on Montreal's South Shore say they are in dire need of more space.

No gyms, libraries, force REACH administrators to get creative about inadequate space

Students at REACH's Queen Street campus play in a classroom that has been turned into a gym. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

Two lines of red tape run down the corridors of REACH's Green Street and Queen Street campuses in Saint-Lambert. Unlike other schools, REACH encourages running in the hallways.

That's because students don't have gyms to run around in.

Part of the Riverside School Board on Montreal's South Shore, REACH is a school for students with special needs.

It's the only English-language public school in Quebec which caters to special needs kids from the ages of four to 21.

Last year, the student population doubled to almost 90 students. That's when the Riverside School Board opened the Queen Street campus, which used to be a school for adult education.

Now there's no more space to grow.

"Clearly there is a space issue within our school. We're going to be at full capacity next year again," said Steve Kennedy, a helper at REACH.

"We don't have all the resources currently, and we need those resources moving forward."

The red tape in the hallways indicates to students where they can run to let off steam. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC )

New gym coming

Neither campus has a gym or a library, with classrooms doubling as sensory rooms and offices for psychologists and occupational therapists.

In January, the province agreed to fund a new gym for the Queen Street campus, but administrators say that's only a small part of a much bigger set of needs.

For REACH, the ideal scenario would be to be on a single, larger campus.

"Definitely resources are scattered. It would be better if everything were centralized under the same roof," said REACH's principal, Marie-Helen Goyetche, who spends her day going back and forth between campuses, as well as two satellite classrooms.

Marie-Helen Goyetche, the principal at REACH, spends her days going between campuses and satellite classrooms. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

Money coming?

On May 31, Education Minister Sébastien Proulx announced Quebec would spend a whopping $2.3 billion in 2018-2019 to renovate, expand and build new schools. 

Of that amount, $8 million is earmarked for the Riverside School Board, should the board put forward project proposals.

Goyetche hopes a portion of that money will go towards REACH and expansion.

"All children are entitled to an education. They are entitled to succeed," she said.

"We need to have them early and for a long time, with the right services, to make them go as far as they can go. We see the potential in these kids."

Last year, REACH expanded, taking over a former adult education centre on Queen Boulevard in Saint-Lambert. But the school staff and students would like to be on a single campus. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

About the Author

Sarah Leavitt

Journalist

Sarah Leavitt is a journalist with CBC Montreal.