For a neighbourhood that prides itself on community, an inordinate number of parents send their kids to schools outside of Mile End. It’s not that Lambert Closse is so bad (depending on who you talk to), but the alternative schools Nouvelle Querbes (Outremont), Arc-en-ciel (Plateau), or FACE (McGill ghetto), or any number of private schools a bus ride away just seem more compelling. But all that might change thanks to a handful of upstart parents and their École des possibles – a parent-led initiative to start a new public alternative school in Mile End.
“The demand is so huge, and if there was ever a neighbourhood in the city that should have an alternative school, it’s Mile End,” says resident and member of the founding committee, Anna Paskal. “Alternative schools are all about active engagement, community, creativity, cooperation, respect – all key aspects of our neighbourhood”.
What she and the other founding families want is a school that not only offers the standard alternative menu – project-based learning, parental and community involvement, flex-pace, multi-age classes – but one that’s also rooted in the burgeoning forest schools and nature educational movements. “It will have a special nature focus,” Paskal explains. “There will be extended recreation periods, regular outside learning, and half a day a week will be spent outdoors on nature-based projects – all year round.” Ecole des possibles hopes to establish formal links with the newly established Champs de possibles – a biodiversity-rich citizen managed green space in the industrial sector of Mile End.
Ecole des possibles is part of a growing wave of interest in alternative schools in Quebec, with nine parent-led projects currently in development throughout the province. The first new one to open its doors in twenty-five years welcomed students a few weeks ago in Point St Charles. There is also a well-advanced project combining primary and high school in Petite-Patrie/Villeray. More and more parents are clearly interested in the founding tenets of alternative education in Quebec: respect for each child’s pace and style of learning, child-led project based approaches, and co-education (being part of their children’s school life).
On Monday night at 7pm the Rialto Theatre is opening its doors for an information and community support night for École des possibles. Activities for children will be led by a team of volunteers. The Mayor of the Borough and the local councilor will be there to lend support. Also attendance will be commissioners from the Commission scolaire de Montréal – the people who make final decisions about opening new schools. The school board is already favourable to the project after an initial survey showed that parents of over 340 children would be interested in registering their children at École des possibles. The timing is critical for moving the project forward. “Monday night is our golden opportunity to introduce the school board to the families,” says Paskal. “They’ll be able to see beyond the numbers to the wider community – to see for themselves the tremendous support for this project within Mile End.”
Paskal’s hope is that a well attended event on Monday will give the school project the wings it needs to open in September 2014. “Next steps are for the school board to look into potential locations. In all likelihood, the first years of the new school would be shared space with an existing school that is not using all its classes. It’s all looking very positive – notre école est vraiment possible.”
And just on a final note, Ezio Carosielli continues his own exemplary community engagement by offering the Rialto for free to the group.
The Soirée d’information takes place Monday, September 23, at 7 pm.
Théâtre Rialto, 5723 ave du Parc
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