Jurisdictional battle

Four-year-olds forced out of Greendale School

By Robert Frank and Ian Howarth


On Thursday, April 26, Quebec Ministry of the Family inspectors appeared without notice at Greendale School in Pierrefonds and began handing out letters telling parents that the school’s pre-kindergarten program for four-year-olds (K4) would be closed the following day.

“While I was there, someone from the ministry of education showed up and told the inspectors to stop handing out letters to parents and that school would continue business as usual,” said eyewitness Laura Bodnick.

The Greendale parent and owner of the westislandmommies.com web site added that the inspectors returned the following day after 4 p.m., and again confronted parents, telling them that the K4 program was finished.

“This time it was after the principal had left, so we could not get information from anyone, and no one knew whether our kids were going to school on Monday or not.”

In March, Lester B. Pearson School Board (LBPSB) warned parents but assured them not to worry about the current school year.

However, LBPSB announced April 30 that—from May 1 onward—it has arranged for the Pierrefonds K4 students to attend classes at the former Seignory elementary school in Pointe Claire, on the opposite side of the West Island.

“We will provide free busing, free snacks and free lunches,” director general Robert Mills told journalists at a news conference. “We are very concerned for vulnerable four-year-old students.”

“We had a mild winter, so our heating costs are down and there are a few dollars in our budget that we will reallocate tonight,” added LBPSB chairman Suanne Stein Day.
Meanwhile, during a simultaneous meeting at Greendale, officials tried to assure distressed parents that the school board’s response is the best solution for the remainder of the school year. They said that students will be accommodated in an area separate from the International Language Centre and Adult Education students in classrooms that were used for the board’s first K4 program, which has since moved elsewhere.

Mr. Mills said that the Ministry of the Family inspectors descended upon Greendale after they received a complaint from an unidentified daycare, and sent LBPSB “a pre-evacuation notice” in February, just before March break.

He explained that from age five onward, children come under the Education Act. Four-year-olds come under a different law, with different regulations that impose their own architectural rules that would be exorbitant for the school board to comply with.

“I can see the board has made an effort to come up with the best possible alternative,” said Lysa Wierzbicki, whose son Ben will be getting a tour of his new school today. After the meeting she was undecided as to whether she would send her son to the new school or keep him at home.

“The situation is certainly frustrating,” she said. “I think the government has lost sight of what education is all about.”

Many parents blamed the government for the current predicament.

“I think it’s a sad situation that our Minister of Families [Nelligan MNA Yolande James] throws up her hands and says there’s nothing she can do,” said Elaine Lobaton, longtime director of Greendale’s daycare program. “To interrupt these kids’ education with only 35 days left in the school year is a shame.”

Nathalie Woolley expressed full confidence in the board’s plans. “I think they did a fantastic job,” said Ms. Woolley, who had to try to explain to her son why there was no school Monday. “The K4 teachers are amazing. They really care about kids. I wanted my son to stay in the program because it is more advanced [than daycare]. 

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