Two new schools for Montreal – Unlike the tendency in most American cities where their downtown areas have experienced a decline that is now difficult to reverse, Canadian cities managed to keep their central areas in reasonably good conditions. A key to preserving the city core in a safe, economically viable, and even inviting way, is to keep it livable, meaning, a place where people, including families, may feel inclined to reside. Having people living downtown means movement of people on the streets with all its economic and cultural benefits for the area.
Montreal –despite some setbacks caused by different reasons ranging from city policies to the downturns of the economy in general– has managed to keep a lively downtown area. As pointed out before, having a reasonable level of residents has been an essential factor in maintaining downtown in good shape. There is one lingering problem that has been mentioned previously in various written reports: downtown residents tend to move out of the neighbourhood, they constitute a mostly transient population. If in some cases –i.e., students renting apartments while attending some of the local universities– that temporariness is expected, in other cases, especially those of young families, the tendency to move out is caused mostly by the lack of facilities, chief among them: no elementary school in the area. As a result of this situation, young families move out when their little children reach school age.
The problem has long been on the agenda of the Peter McGill Community Council which represents residents and institutions in the west end sector of downtown. Understandably, the Council has received the news that the Quebec government plans to build two elementary schools in the area with great satisfaction. “This is a big day for residents and groups in Peter-McGill, who have been advocating for a primary school downtown for many years,” reads a press release issued by that Council. The organization also pointed out that “Two schools also means there will also be less distance for local children to travel in the morning and evening, who currently attend schools in other neighbourhoods.”
The west end organization was especially pleased about the announced recovery of the Académie Bourget building for educational purposes, according to its press release: “an announcement that has arrived after years of waiting. This site is an excellent location for neighbourhood families – it is central, close to the metro and its cultural and historical value is in line with an educational mission. We hope that the City of Montreal and the Comission scolaire de Montréal (CSDM) work together efficiently in renovating this building so that the school will be opened quickly.” The other school will be built at the corner of Saint Mathieu and René Levesque, on the site of the former Grey Nuns convent now owned by Concordia University. Some members of the Peter McGill Council were less excited about this location since it would come to the cost of removing some green space, but in general, this community organization supports the renovation and construction announced by the government. “We would like to congratulate the Ministry of Education, the CSDM and the City of Montreal, who have responded to the demands of the Peter-McGill community,” said in its communiqué.
The two schools should be operational by 2021 and will house near the 37 classes estimated necessary to satisfy the demand in the downtown sector.