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The LBPSB foresakes rights to off island students

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Why the Lester B Pearson School Board is slowly losing its student population to the French School Board / The reality of “off island” zoning and the new Major School Changes:

The Lester B Pearson School Board has issued its decision on the Major School Changes and there are many families who find themselves with no choice but to switch their children to the French School Board. The following is a letter explaining why . . .

“It is with tremendous disappointment and with great dismay that we write this letter to the LBPSB:

We are the residents of a zone designated as "Area 57" - a school zone just north of the 40, part of a growing - no, a burgeoning community to the west, off island. We have been informed that with the MSC, Area 57 has been re-zoned to a school in Hudson, roughly 18+ km from our homes and away from our community.

As members of this community we have watched it explode in numbers over the past 10 years and we fully understand the dilemmas imposed upon all facets of our community. In particular, we know the problems the LBPSB has been facing with increased population in certain concentrated areas (our school, Pierre Elliott Trudeau Elementary is one that is hard hit). Several years ago the LBPSB defined these various off island zones, separating communities and areas ultimately for the purpose of determining school attendance and transportation. At the time, it seemed to make sense . . . Who among us would have known that living in some of these zones would eventually land us in the hopeless position we are in today?

For the residents of Area 57, there is one major factor that prevents us from adhering to the MSC: most working parents cannot get to the daycare before the 6:00 pm deadline - their work hours prevent them. It is too great a distance to drive the 18+ kms further west into increasing traffic to make it possible. It just won’t work. We have heard that parents may still "apply" to our current school nevertheless - and if class size permits (among other factors we as parents are unaware of), our children may still be admitted - though no transportation will be provided. For most, this too is just not an option.

Please know that first and foremost we are all Quebecers and we are, collectively, proud or our heritage - a rich blend of English, French and immigrant people who have one thing in common: "the right to an English education". Living off island, we have all been with the LBPSB, having chosen to use this fantastic privilege for obvious reasons: a) to maintain our rights to an education in English, b) to secure the rights of our children’s children, and c) the LBPSB is our number one choice as it provides a solid, high quality education with excellent French Immersion programs.

We know and we fully understand the troubles the LBPSB is suffering: how some schools have lowering populations while others are bursting at the seams. We understand that there needs to be some shuffling in order to balance the student population at each school for the greater good of the LBPSB.

We do not understand how both government and school board have failed us – the “Area 57” residents who will be unable go to the proposed school in Hudson. This when our local school, the school we have been attending (some of us for 7 years or more), is at a distance of 1.6 - 4.0 km away. If the Ministère de l'Éducation has determined that it is permissible to send children to a school within 20 km of home, is the LBPSB not also obliged to ensure that implementing such a change is in fact feasible for ALL students and families subject to such a change? Does the Education Act not support our constitutional rights to our education including the appropriate infrastructure?

The MSC also represents many other burdens that the people of Area 57 will ultimately suffer. This letter could hardly list all the facts: 2 hours/day on a bus that will pick up kids 2 hours earlier, the financial impact of driving 40 km extra /day to retrieve children PLUS the added cost of daycare, the emotional impact on child/family, etc. – rest assured there are many factors that will have a direct and largely negative impact on our lives.

If the LBPSB cannot provide a solution for those of us in Area 57, there is an alternative: denying our constitutional right to an English education and placing our children in French school is an option (seemingly an option favored by the government). It is an alternative which could still prove a hardship for many children and parents of English only families, and represents a terrific loss knowing that the immersion programs are excellent in our schools. We feel it is not the best option to switch our children to the French school board. But it is a better option than selling our homes and leaving a community in which we’ve built our lives – or leaving our jobs so as to accommodate our children’s school schedule.

This is yet another blow to the Quebec Anglophone population, for in the end we will all lose. Education in English is under threat of disappearing and with each one of us that switches our child(ren) to the French system, we are letting go of our rights. It represents a serious loss – part of a process that started years ago and continues to be an ill-addressed problem within the English school boards.

We are simply unable to support this MSC decision. Sadly, the alternative option of placing the children in the French system may be the only choice if our request for the status quo cannot be maintained.

We pray that the LBPSB and our local MNA hear our story. Maybe something can still be done to save us."


The Residents of “Area 57”

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