Montreal

Rivière-des-Prairies should have its own English high school, parents urge

There are more than 1,300 students attending the three English elementary schools in Rivière-des-Prairies but, once they graduate to high school, they face a long, daily commute.

EMSB commissioner says swapping with the French school board could work

There are more than 1,300 English elementary students in Rivière-des-Prairies and those students, says one parent, would be better served were there a small, local high school. (Elaine Thompson/Associated Press)

There are more than 1,300 students attending the three English elementary schools in Rivière-des-Prairies but, once they graduate to high school, they face a long, daily commute.

That is why local parent Joseph Paglia has launched a petition calling for the establishment of a small English high school in the east-end borough.

That way, students wouldn't have to make the daily trek to Rosemont, Saint-Léonard or Montréal-Nord to attend classes, he told CBC Montreal's Daybreak on Wednesday.

"Most have to take public transportation or their parents drop them off," he said.

"It's not a 10- or 15-minute bus ride. It can be up to an hour."

And that's just to Montréal-Nord. Students going further can face up to 90 minutes of travel time one way, he said.

The petition comes at a time when French-language schools in the area are bursting at the seams.

The Quebec government is putting pressure on the English Montreal School Board to provide space for 3,000 Pointe-de-l'Ile school board (CSPI) students.

Rather than hand over a school or share one with the French school board, Paglia said the EMSB could swap buildings with the CSPI to establish an English high school in RDP that would be "better suited to our needs."

This could free up space for the CSPI and reduce commute times for RDP students, he said. He is optimistic that the two school boards could come to an agreement  with the Minister of Education's help.

The goal is to collect 1,000 signatures. In four days, more than 500 people have signed the online petition.

Decision needed, one way or another

EMSB vice chair Joe Ortona said he discussed the petition with commissioners Tuesday night, and some are are open to the idea of swapping buildings with the CSPI and establishing a new, smaller school.

It's a solution that goes beyond closing or merging sparsely attended schools, he said.

He cautioned that if the board doesn't take action, the education minister may do so himself, as was seen with the closure of Riverdale High School earlier this school year, he said.

"The fact of the matter is, the CSPI needs space for next semester for 3,000 CSPI kids," he said.

"We're going to have to work out some sort of solution with the CSPI in order to bring forward a common plan. If not, I don't know what [the education minister] is going to do."

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak

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