Parents of Lakeside Academy students were surprised and frustrated when the Lester B. Pearson School Board (LBPSB) voted 8-5 Monday night in favour of closing the high school in Lachine, effective June 30, 2016.
“We did not expect the decision. We felt we put some good recommendations forward,” said Karen Bleakley, parent chair of the governing board at Lakeside Academy. The two closures and four mergers voted were the result of an 18-month major school change process, including detailed proposals from schools and institutions across the board. The academy’s brief included transportation rezoning and inclusion of vocational programs at the school.
“When we look where we’re situated geographically it made sense to leave us open. If you take Lakeside out it leaves a massive expanse between LaSalle and Pointe Claire. We felt reasonably confident that we could find something to bring the occupancy up.”
Lakeside is currently at 37 per cent enrolment. Their success rate, however, is 96 per cent.
Bleakley currently has one child registered at Lakeside Academy. “I’m going to give him the options they’ve laid out, and he can make his choice.”
Lakeside Academy students will move to either Lindsay Place High School or LaSalle Community Comprehensive High School (LCCHS), depending on proximity. International Baccalaureate students residing in Dorval can enroll in the IB program in Saint-Thomas, Lachine students at LCCHS. Students from either area also have the option of enriched classes at Lindsay Place.
Bleakley holds some hope for a reconsideration vote. “I feel better that it was not unanimous. Some commissioners said they ‘regretfully’ vote in favour, so maybe we can look into this,” she said.
“We chose Lakeside because it’s a small school. Who is going to come to my house and explain to my special needs child that change is good?” said Laurie-Ann Nesbitt.
Another parent, Fe Solomon, questioned at the meeting how much more can they take. She selected Lakeside Academy for her daughter because of the IB program. “[She’s] about to graduate next year. Where is she going to go to school? You suggested Saint-Thomas, but it’s almost at capacity,” she said.
Saint-Thomas High School in Pointe Claire is close to capacity, however less students wrote the IB exam this year, said LBPSB chair person, Suanne Stein Day. “We are committed to prioritizing the students who already are in the IB program at Lakeside as if they were in the program at Saint-Thomas. The first priority are kids in the program in the school, and they will be treated in the same vein,” she told TC Media.
The board considered several schools, including Lindsay Place High School, for closure. Looking at student demographics, it found that students from LaSalle were going to Lakeside, and many Dorval students were attending Lindsay Place. An expected loss of 80 students in the Lachine-Dorval area over the next several years was also taken into consideration.