|EMSB PROPOSES FOUR SCHOOL CLOSURES|
MONTREAL, AUGUST 30, 2006- The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) Council of Commissioners has approved for consultation recommendations from the Long Range Planning Committee (LRPC) that could see four elementary schools close at the end of the present academic year.
Schools being considered for closure are: St. Gabriel in Pointe St. Charles, McLearon in Pointe aux Trembles, Frederick Banting in Montreal North and Carlyle in Town of Mount Royal. A number of other recommendations were not maintained. Commissioners rejected considering the possible closure of St. Brendan in Rosemount as well as another scenario in which they were being asked to select one other school for closure from the following group of four: John Caboto and Our Lady of Pompei in Ahuntsic, St. Dorothy in St. Michel or Holy Cross in St. Laurent. Finally, a proposal to make a switch in French programs involving two other St. Laurent elementary schools – Parkdale and Cedarcrest and also involving Gardenview – wasn't retained either.
A period of consultation will now begin involving the governing boards for each school affected the Central Parents Committee and the specific municipalities and boroughs where they are situated. These partners will be given the opportunity to present briefs which will serve as the basis for public hearings and discussion in early December. A final vote on the proposals will occur at a special meeting in mid-January.
An extensive demographic study of the EMSB network was prepared by the LRPC last winter. The results were shared with the Council of Commissioners and representatives of all governing boards at workshops in the spring, with data clearly demonstrating how the EMSB is operating too many facilities in the youth sector.
Since the last series of major school changes adopted in 2004--2005, which involved the closure of two elementary schools (St. Ignatius of Loyola in N.D.G. and St. Patrick on the Plateau) and two high schools (Wagar in Côte Saint-Luc and St. Pius X in Ahuntsic), as well as the relocation of some other schools and centres, the EMSB has experienced a sharp drop in enrolment of almost 2,000 students. This is due to a variety of reasons, including a declining birth rate, families with children moving out of the EMSB territory and the introduction of Bill 104 by the Quebec government. The latter excludes studies completed in the Quebec private school system as a way to gain English public system eligibility. It is anticipated that the EMSB youth sector student population could drop by at least 2,700 more students in five years.
"Our review shows that a number of facilities are underutilized," said EMSB Director General Antonio Lacroce. "Consequently, if the EMSB is to deliver the quality educational programs that our students and parents have come to expect, and if we are to do this in a fiscally responsible manner, then, we must consolidate some of the enrolments. As school enrolments get smaller, it becomes impossible to provide quality educational programs unless additional staffing and other resources are injected. To maintain small schools with small enrolments, resources must be injected that would normally go to the other schools in the system. The end result is that services to students throughout the entire system are then reduced to compensate for the smaller schools."
Projections by Baragar, the demographics company used by the EMSB and school boards across the country for such purposes, are based on enrolment and on three demographic criteria within the catchment area: the birth (population) history, the participation rate and the migration rate. The data includes the birth registry from the province of Quebec, the child tax benefit (baby bonus) from Revenue Canada and Revenue Quebec, and the Canadian family allowance files of children ages one to 17. Housing statistics by themselves are not true indicators that the school’s enrolment is anticipated to increase. Other factors need to be considered. This includes the type of housing, the market it is targeting and the eligibility of new families to English education. Therefore, Baragar projections take into account the migration rate that measures the net impact on the underlying population caused by children moving into and out of a catchment area.
The EMSB offers three French instruction programs at the elementary level: core (33 percent), bilingual (50 percent) and immersion (68 percent). These are factors when school closures are considered.
A more detailed look at the individual recommendations follows:
St. Gabriel Elementary School, Pointe St. Charles
The LRPC is recommending that St. Gabriel in Point St. Charles close as an elementary school on June 30, 2007 and that the enrolment be directed to Westmount Park Elementary School. Data shows that since 2001-02 the enrolment has declined by 82, from 227 to 145 students in 2005-06 – 43 percent of its 345 pupil place capacity. Projections for this year foresee 126 students while Baragar shows a further decline to 116 over the next four years. The building also houses Vezina (Outreach) High School. It is important to note that in 2005-06, there were 23 students in Grade 6 who graduated, whereas there will only be nine to 11 students in kindergarten for 2006-07.
The Westmount Park building has a capacity for 864 pupil places. In 2005-2006, 44 percent of this space was used. With a projected enrolment of 327 students this year, the facility can comfortably accommodate the St. Gabriel population. Furthermore, 30 students from the St. Gabriel catchment area presently attend Westmount Park. Some of this is due to the overlapping boundaries that existed prior to the implementation of the new boundaries for elementary schools in September 2002. Both schools offer the core French program.
McLearon Elementary School, Pointe aux Trembles
Data shows that since 2001-02 the enrolment at McLearon in Pointe-aux-Trembles has declined by 115 from 270 to 155 students (43 percent capacity) in 2005-06. Of that group, there were 27 students in Grade 6 who graduated whereas there will only be nine in kindergarten for 2006-07. The principal’s June 2006 forecast report indicates an enrolment of 126 students this year and the Baragar projections show a further decline to 110 in the next four years. It is being recommended that students be directed to Edward Murphy Elementary School in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and Dalkeith in Anjou. The capacity of the Edward Murphy facility is 485 pupil places. In 2005-2006 it used 54 percent of its space. Dalkeith has a capacity of 485. Last year it occupied only 59 percent. Prior to September 2004, the student population of McLearon was composed of two groups: those residing in the territory of the EMSB and another from off island in the Repentigny and Le Gardeur areas of the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board (SWLSB). The latter group had been attending McLearon by virtue of interboard agreements, which were terminated by the SWLSB because it had built a school in its territory to serve the students of Repentigny and Le Gardeur. McLearon and Dalkeith both offer the core French program while Edward Murphy has that option as well as French immersion.
Frederick Banting, Montreal North
Data shows that since 2001-02 enrolment at Frederick Banting in Montreal North has declined from 273 to 209 in 2005-06, representing a drop of 64 students. It is important to note that in 2005-06, there were 54 students in Grade 6 who graduated whereas there will only be 20 in kindergarten for 2006-07. The principal’s June 2006 forecast enrolment report indicates an enrolment of 165 students and the Baragar projections show a further decline to 158 students in the next four years. It is being recommended that Frederick Banting close and students be directed to Gerald McShane Elementary School, also located in Montreal North. The capacity of the Frederick Banting facility is 340 pupil places. In 2005-2006, 62 percent of that space was used. In 2004, a major construction project at the Gerald McShane facility converted the space to closed classrooms and therefore increased its capacity from 435 to 660 pupil places. In 2005-2006, 54 percent of that capacity was used. Since the combined June 2006 principals' forecast for Frederick Banting and Gerald McShane are 476, both populations could be accommodated within the Gerald McShane facility. This consolidation would ensure a more efficient use of space and offer greater resources for the entire population. Both schools offer the French bilingual program.
Carlyle, Town of Mount Royal
Data shows that since 2001-02 the enrolment at Carlyle in T.M.R. has declined from 380 to 272 students in 2005-06. This represents a drop of 108 students. It is important to note that in 2005-06, there were 42 students in Grade 6 who graduated, whereas there will only be 22 students in kindergarten for 2006-07. The principal’s June 2006 forecast enrolment report indicates an enrolment of 232 students and the Baragar projections show a further decline to 164 in the next four years. It is being recommended that students be directed to Sinclair Laird in Park Extension and Coronation in Côte des Neiges. The capacity for Carlyle is 395 pupil places. In 2005-2006, 69 percent of that space was used. Sinclair Laird has a capacity of 485 pupil places. In 2005-2006, it used 77 percent of that space. Coronation has a capacity of 939 and it used 47 percent of that space last year. All three schools offer the French core program. Coronation also has French immersion.
Michael J. Cohen