11/16/2012 10:26 EST | Updated 01/16/2013 05:12 EST

EMSB conducts survey to rename Wagar High

The English Montreal School Board is making plans to open a new high school in Côte Saint-Luc in 2014-2015, in the building that housed Wagar High School until 2005.

The EMSB closed Wagar High School because of dwindling enrolment, but that controversial decision never sat well with residents in the west-end neighbourhood.

To stir up excitement about the proposed new school, the school board is surveying citizens through an online poll, to collect opinions on what the school should be called.

Participants can choose among the names Côte Saint-Luc, Wagar, Parkhaven and Wallenburg or post their own suggestions.

Beverly Akerman, a Montreal writer and voracious reader, said the unnamed school presents an ideal opportunity to pay tribute to Mordecai Richler, the Canadian literary giant who died in 2001.

The City of Montreal named a gazebo on the eastern flank of Parc Mont-Royal after Richler in 2011, for the 10th anniversary of his death.

"I don't think that's enough," said Akerman. "I really think we need something that reflects learning and literature, and I think a school is a great idea."

The old Wagar high building once had more than a thousand teenagers coming through its doors daily. The building, now called the Giovanni Pallatucci facility, is now an adult education centre and a school for children with special needs.

There have been several efforts to resurrect the building as a high school since it was closed in 2005.

The latest proposal calls for both a French Immersion and an English stream, as well as two specialty academic tracks — a sports concentration or a heritage language and enriched science track.

If enough students sign up for the heritage program, the school intends to offer them a choice among Jewish, Italian, Greek, Chinese and Spanish language and culture.

"We're trying to put together a strong academic program with a strong element of creativity," said Syd Wise, an EMSB commissioner who was principal at Wagar high school two decades ago.

Wise said the school's name should reflect its values and its mission, and Richler's name could be a fitting choice.

"We're hoping that creativity will attract a number of people, and perhaps the name itself will represent our school," said Wise.

Officials at the school board have said at least 60 students would need to enroll for Secondary One at the proposed school for 2014-2015 for the school to be viable.

The online survey is open until Nov. 30.