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Sinclair Laird park preservationists appeal to VSP borough

Create: 09/19/2016 - 21:10

A group of community activists from Park Extension who want to see the north yard at Sinclair Laird School on Wiseman Ave. preserved as a public park instead of being used to build a new daycare turned up at the Villeray/St-Michel/Parc Extension’s monthly public meeting on Sept. 6 to argue their case.
“With all due respect to the Maison Montessori which is the daycare in question, we feel the benefits do not outweigh the advantages for our school,” Joanna Peters, chairperson of the Sinclair Laird School governing board said during the meeting which was held at the Centre Patro Le Prevost in Villeray.
Laird board ‘not in favour’
According to Peters, the board took a decision last year “not in favour of this proposal. We feel there’s no guarantee that having a private daycare on our grounds will encourage enrolment since a majority of our students will not have English eligibility.”
She said those with eligibility would be those with special needs, “but we have a higher ratio of students with special needs already at our school and we are constantly struggling for services and resources and we’re always in deficit.”
Part of her question to the VSP officials was: “How will our borough prioritize the students of Sinclair Laird, a school that has already lost seven of its classrooms, in order to give St. Raphael Centre a new home with whom we already co-habitate for the last three years?”
Seeking help of borough
(Part of Sinclair Laird School is now leased to St. Raphael which caters to students having difficulties with academic progress or who have emotional issues.) “I’d like to know how the borough will be there for us as they’ve supported us in the past,” Peters added.
Park Extension city councillor Mary Deros replied that up to Sept. 6, the borough hadn’t received any documents or construction permit applications. “We don’t have details on the project,” she said. “So far it’s hearsay, who’s saying what and so on. I don’t know what the school board’s doing with the promoter and we’re just waiting to see what will happen.
“Nothing has come to our table as of today, so for us there’s no project on the table,” Deros continued. “If there are discussions between the school board and the promoter then I believe we need to go to the school board and see what their plans are. It is a school yard, it is not per se a park. It is a school yard.”
Friends of Sinclair Laird
While noting that the borough worked pro-actively with the EMSB some years back on a project to improve the south end of the Sinclair Laird grounds along d’Anvers Ave., Deros said there has been no similar consultation with regards to the daycare project on the northern side of the school.
Lesley Selwood, another Park Exer who has been spearheading efforts to conserve the schoolyard as a school/park, said the members of a group she and supporters formed, called Friends of Sinclair Laird, have been circulating a petition and “have been going door to door and we’ve been going daycare to daycare and we’ve been talking to the residents and the residents are not happy.
Petition’s 600 signatures
“We have over 600 signatures at the moment opposing any development in the park,” Selwood maintained. “Yes, I understand that it is the property of the English Montreal School Board, but this park is used by the residents, it is used by the children of the neighourhood.”
Deros responded: “I am not in support of any individual daycare owner. I support the needs of Park Extension residents. At this point, I have heard many different stories, and the fact that the CLSC and Maison Bleue refer children who have special needs to this particular daycare is also a concern.
“But as I mentioned to Mrs. Peters, we have not received a project at the borough level yet. So far it’s what I hear from different people. Right now it is not between the promoter and the borough, it is between the promoter and the school board, and unless they come to an agreement any argument we have is futile.”

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Martin C. Barry