'We need schools': Spaces to be created for 1,000 students in downtown Montreal

A Montreal classroom. Phil Carpenter / Montreal Gazette

After years of waiting, children living in the western part of downtown Montreal will soon have not one, but two new schools.

Education Minister Sébastien Proulx, Mayor Valérie Plante and Commission Scolaire de Montreal chairperson Catherine Harel-Bourdon were on hand at one of the new sites Friday for the announcement.

The first will be at the former Academie Bourget, a heritage site on de la Montagne St. It will receive a $21-million retrofit to become a primary school with two pre-kindergarten classes, 12 primary classes and a gym.

Another elementary school with four pre-kindergarten and 24 primary classes will be constructed nearby on a vacant site on St-Mathieu St., which belongs to Concordia University and is near its Grey Nuns pavilion. The new school will be a partnership between Concordia, the Education Ministry and the CSDM.

In total, this will create spaces for 1,000 students in dowtown Montreal’s Peter McGill district, where there are no schools despite a growing population of condo-dwelling families. More than 300 children are bused to schools in Westmount or eastern downtown, spending up to an hour a day in traffic.

It will nevertheless be three to five years before the new schools open.

“If we want to keep families in Montreal, we need schools,” Plante said.

The investment in the new schools will also help students attending St-Léon-de-Westmount, which is badly overcrowded. Harel-Bourdon said they will soon get their music rooms and library back, which currently serve as classrooms.

Proulx also announced $4 million to build an orchestral instruction room at the new Centre d’enseignement de musique at École sécondaire Joseph-François Perreault, $14.5 million to expand École sécondaire Sophie Barat and $5.7 million to build new greenhouses at the École des métiers de l’horitculture de Montréal, and $13 million to demolish a building on Hochelaga St. and construct a primary school with 14 classes.

Proulx said a total of $437 million is being invested in schools in the Montreal region out of a sum of $2.3 billion this year. He joked that the Education Ministry is starting to compete with the Transport Department in the number of work sites, construction jobs and projects it is responsible for.

Harel-Bourdon noted that the announcement was good news, but that there are still many other projects awaiting an answer.

“This made lots of people happy today … but there is a great need.”

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