An elementary school in Montreal's Villeray neighbourhood that has been shuttered for a year due to mould contamination will be rehabilitated with $16 million earmarked to bring the school back into commission.
On Friday, the Quebec government announced it had set aside $10 million to rebuild Saint-Gérard School, with the Commission Scolaire de Montréal adding $6 million in funds. The new school will include 10 more classrooms and a new gymnasium.
Closed on Jan. 11, 2012, the school's 425 students were forced to first attend classes at Collège Ahuntsic and then Georges Vanier secondary school.
The parents of children at the school were steadfast in their fight to get answers from the school board over the closure. They formed the Regroupement de parents de l'école St-Gérard, headed by Chantal Laperrière, a parent of two students, to put pressure on the board.
“We asked for documents [by way of Access to Information requests]... We went to the school board whenever they had meetings. We were sending letters and we went to the media,” Laperrière told CBC Montreal’s Daybreak.
Laperrière feared the school board wasn't going to test for mould contamination and the group offered to pay to have that test completed. The board eventually did the testing and took responsibility for the cost.
The parents had an event planned for outside of the school yesterday, hoping to draw more attention to the issue. Instead, it turned into a victory celebration of sorts as they welcomed news that money had been allocated to remedy the situation. But, the parents remain guardedly optimistic.
“Personally, I’m going to believe it when I see the first bulldozer in the schoolyard,” said Elisabeth Rousseau, the mother of two children who attend the school.
“There’s a lot of work to be done yet since our school was built in the 1930s ... Of course we’ve got our hopes up, but work has just begun in a way. “
The CSDM and Ministry of Education were unavailable for interviews with Daybreak Monday morning, but released a statement on Friday.
It said that two will work together in setting priorities for schools in need of attention. The Ministry of Education noted the CSDM is responsible for the necessary funds and the government will only step in with funds in extraordinary cases of major building renovation or replacement.
Saint-Gérard School is scheduled to reopen in January 2015.