After much debate, EMSB votes to relocate Galileo Adult Education Centre

At a special meeting of the English Montreal School Board, members voted to approve the plan to move the Galileo Adult Education Centre in Montreal North to give space to the French Pointe-de-l'Île School Board.

With eight votes in favour, four against and one abstention, the EMSB will move forward with the plan to relocate Galileo to the St. Pius X Centre in neighbouring Ahuntsic.

It's unclear what the next step will be, since Education Minister Jean-François Roberge had previously rejected the proposal, calling it "insufficient" to address the overcrowding issues at the Pointe-de-l'Île board.

The French board needs space for an additional 3,000 students by next fall, and Roberge wants the EMSB — with many of its schools not operating at full capacity — to help.

On May 9, Roberge threatened to transfer three schools (General Vanier and Gerald McShane elementary schools and John Paul I junior high) to Pointe-de-l'Île.

The EMSB bristled at that suggestion, with board chair Angela Mancini saying the ministry acted faster than the school board could come up with solutions.

CBC

The move also prompted anger and frustration from English-speaking families at risk of losing their schools, and many mobilized to hold protests and voice their opposition.

In response to the backlash, Roberge gave the EMSB until June 10 to tell him what issues could arise from his idea to transfer the three buildings.

The topic has been a source of tension among school board commissioners for weeks, with infighting and bickering between rival factions spilling over into meetings.

On May 17, Vice-chair Joe Ortona said EMSB chair Mancini and commissioner Sylvia Lo Bianco had "sabotaged" the plan for Galileo and called for their resignation, while Mancini countered that Ortona's "antagonistic comments" had upset Roberge and put the entire process at risk.

On Tuesday evening, Ortona voted in favour of the plan, while Mancini and Lo Bianco voted against.

''We are in a position ... where we either compromise and try to help out, or we may have a minister that acts for us," said Mancini at the meeting, calling the board's vote to move Galileo "inappropriate."

Mancini has been advocating for a cohabitation solution where the EMSB and Pointe-de-l'Île share space.

''I want the minister to listen to our parents. They want to do cohabitation and they're ready to open their doors to francophone students," she said.

But Ortona rebuffed the idea, saying that the Pointe-de-l'Île board isn't interested in that solution, especially when the education minister is ready and willing to hand over three schools.

With Roberge's threat to transfer the three buildings still hanging in the air, it remains to be seen whether the EMSB will be able to convince the minister that freeing up Galileo will be enough to tip the scales for the Pointe-de-l'Île School Board.

''We're going to offer [Pointe-de-l'Île] 85 classes, which is more than the minister can give them by taking three of our schools," said Ortona.

''It's our duty to communicate that to the minister and to show him that this in fact a well thought out plan."