Parents contest the English Montreal School Board's plan to potentially close Nesbitt Elementary School
Last week, EMSB parent commissioners asked the council of commissioners to rescind the votes on potential school closings of March 30 and April 4. The parent commissioners were rightly fed up with the shenanigans of the council of commissioners, including outbursts and insinuations, shady-looking voting procedures and allegations of collusion.
But the real problem is more fundamental: The consultation process is a sham. The parents of Nesbitt Elementary School have been saying it from the start.
Nesbitt has no business being on the list of potential closures. We are a big school, with 422 students. We have excellent facilities and a committed community backing us up. What’s more, our 30-year-old French immersion program is so popular that parents from all over East Montreal send their kids to our school.
But therein lies the problem. When parents choose Nesbitt, other schools lose kids. With enrolment declining throughout the EMSB, a few commissioners appear to think that wiping out Nesbitt will keep their smaller schools on life support for a few more years.
Nesbitt parents have been saying it from the start: the EMSB’s so-called "consultation process" is bogus. The decision to close Nesbitt was made before any of this started. What else can we think when we gathered 4,000 signatures of support, and commissioners voted to put us into the public consultation anyway, without a debate?
Are commissioners really committed to providing quality education in Quebec, as they claim?
If so, closing Nesbitt is a strange choice. Nesbitt churns out high-achieving bilingual Quebecers. We have excellent facilities – two gyms, a cafeteria that serves hot meals, a big library, a computer room, a pool across the street, not to mention committed teachers and involved parents. What’s more, the Nesbitt community is a model of linguistic harmony. We have great relations with our neighbouring francophone schools in Rosemont.
Are commissioners really committed to reducing costs?
The EMSB said they wanted to close schools with less than 200 students. That makes sense. Smaller schools are more costly to operate. Yet the official reason for putting Nesbitt on the block for closure is: We’re not a "community school" – an ill-defined concept that has something to do with being small. The upshot: Nesbitt is too big!
Parents aren’t stupid. Even the parents at the small schools that are miraculously not being considered for closure can smell a rat. Everyone knows enrolment is declining and decisions have to be made. But the process has no clear criteria. The decisions make no sense. So far, we haven’t seen a rational plan, just parochial politics.
Before the vote to rescind last week, some commissioners waved what they thought was the ultimate threat to parents: If they rescinded their votes, the Ministry of Education would put the EMSB under trusteeship.
Talk about an empty threat. How could we be in worse hands that we are now?
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Julie Barlow, Sam Benahmed and Jean-François Desmarais
are parents of children at Nesbitt Elementary School