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MONTREAL, MARCH 20, 2014 – The English Montreal School Board held public hearings on March 18 for the purpose of relocating the Philip E. Layton School  for the visually impaired to the Mackay Centre School facility beginning with  the 2014-2015 academic year.

For decades, the  Philip E. Layton School has been located at the Montreal Association for the Blind (MAB) on Sherbrooke Street West in NDG. The Mackay Center School, located on Decarie Boulevard, also in NDG, educates children with motor, speech or sensorial difficulties.  P.E. Layton services the blind and/or physically handicapped and /or intellectually handicapped students. Both schools have a supra-regional mandate and consequently  the EMSB is the only school board to offer services to this particular group of English students, not only in the Montreal region, but in the province of Quebec.


For almost three years, the EMSB has been working  with the MELS and  the  MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre towards the acquisition of the property. “We are doing our utmost to bring a resolution to this situation,” stated EMSB Chairman Angela Mancini.

At the public hearings, parents expressed concern that the move to accommodate the current population of Philip E. Layton leaves no space for either school to grow. This could create serious safety and security issues in the future. The space allocated must be sufficient to accommodate current and future students, the additional personnel and a new stimulation program, the Snoezelen Room, funded by a generous benefactor. This had been placed on hold once the eviction of Philip E. Layton School became known.  In order to maintain the classes of each school close together on one floor, the current library would need to relocate to the Michael Reid Room in order to provide for adequate space to accommodate groups of  vulnerable students in wheel chairs in the library at one time. The final location of the library has not been determined as the MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre wishes to retain the Michael Reid Room (named after a student who died and whose family and foundation has contributed to the establishment of the resource library  for parents and children) for staff meetings and functions in spite of the wishes of the Michael Reid Family to have the two schools house the library of the two schools there.

To date, the second floor of the facility at 3500  Décarie  has been designated for the Philip E. Layton School and the third floor for the Mackay Centre School. The fourth floor remains the exclusive use of the MAB - Mackay Rehabilitation Centre. It is to be noted that only sections of the second and third floors of this building are being allotted to the two schools, and not the entire floors, the balance of these two floors are used by the MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre. The impact of this is that the schools must reorganize their space requirements, in accordance to this new reality.

Several options were explored to accommodate these needy students by the SPACE Committee, composed of EMSB and MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre personnel. The staff of the two schools, in an effort to conclude the space allocations, offered to have their staff room in the archive room in the semi-basement (first floor) of the facility instead of the option offered by MAB- Mackay Rehabilitation Centre to relocate the library to this room which is located next to the pool and indoor garage. The issue of space allocation remains unresolved.


Philip E. Layton School

The MAB was founded in 1908 by Philip E. Layton, who had a visual impairment. He organized a social club, a braille library and a sheltered workshop for blind and visually impaired adults. In 1912 the elementary residential school for blind and visually impaired children was built at 7010 Sherbrooke Street West in NDG. The purpose was to teach them in view of integrating into them into local high schools, a first in Canada. In 1977, the Ministries of Education and Social Affairs joined forces and designated Philip E. Layton as a social affairs school, under the jurisdiction of the then Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal.

This remains the only school for English speaking blind and visually impaired children in the province of Quebec and one of two in Canada  Currently the school has 35 students, all of whom are visually impaired or blind and/or physically handicapped and/or intellectually handicapped. As a social affairs school, it offers full day schooling to four year olds and can retain these students until age 21. Presently, 18 of the 35 students are wheelchair bound, non-verbal, multiply disabled and have significant and at times life-threatening medical conditions.

Mackay Centre School

Thomas Widd, a deaf newspaper editor who emigrated from England, founded the first school for the Protestant Deaf Mutes in Montreal in 1869. Since 1877 the school has carried the name of Joseph Mackay, the individual who donated the money and the land for the building. Around 1960, the Mackay Institute for Protestant Deaf Mutes and the School for Crippled Children, which first opened in 1916, merged and both needed a new building. It was at this time that the new "Mackay Rehabilitation Centre" was opened in 1964 to serve both populations. This was a residential school, which began with 59 students who were deaf and others with physical disabilities. In 1977, under the direction of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Affairs, the PSBGM  was given the responsibility for educating the children.

Since that time the Mackay Rehabilitation Centre, has evolved into an institution in which two different organizations cooperate to meet the needs of deaf and disabled children. After the merger of the MAB and the Mackay Rehabilitation Centre in 2006, it was renamed the MAB - Mackay Rehabilitation Centre which focuses on rehabilitation, while the Mackay Centre School covers the educational needs of the children. There are many joint efforts in accomplishing these goals. In 1998 the Mackay Centre School became the responsibility of the EMSB.  This change had no effect on the location of the school or its programs.

At present, the school has a population of 13 deaf children and 111 disabled students ranging in age from four  to 21, although the majority of the students are between four and 12. Students come to the school from all over the city, as well as from off island boroughs and schools. There are an additional 13 reverse integrated children who are not disabled in the school, as part of the reverse integration program. These are integrated with the physically disabled population of the school and come from different EMSB schools.


Michael J. Cohen
Communications and Marketing Specialist
English Montreal School Board
Tel: (514) 483-7200 ext. 7243
Fax: (514) 483-7213