Lakeside Academy parents scrambling to find ways to avoid Lachine school’s closure

When Dorval resident Jennifer Park found out school board commissioners voted 8-5 to shut down her children’s high school, Lakeside Academy, she was livid.

“Sometimes when you look at a school as a business, you don’t look at the heart of the school,” she said.

The Lester B. Pearson School Board announced in December it would shutter Lakeside at the end of the school year. The school is one of several which the board is either closing or merging with other schools as it seeks to address an expected budget shortfall.

Lakeside Academy students, parents ‘stunned’ by closure

​Park knows a thing or two about school closures. If the closure of Lakeside goes ahead, this would be the third time she would have to switch one of her children to another school.

But instead of staying angry, Park got busy.

Local politicians on board

She founded the Save Lakeside group that’s attracted parents, citizens and local politicians — including Lachine borough councillor Maja Vodanovic.

There’s a possibility school board commissioners will reconsider their decision to close the school if they’re presented with new information, so Save Lakeside is trying to build a case to persuade them the school is too valuable an institution to board up.

Lakeside Academy in Lachine is one of two schools closing by the end of the school year in the Lester B. Pearson School Board. (CBC/Jaela Bernstien)

Park said the group will have to be creative — for example, taking advantage of the high school’s location next to the airport.

“We said maybe we should explore a partnership with the airport and bring in an aviation course — an engineering course,” Park said.

Boosting First Nations’ curriculum

Park and Vodanovic have been fine-tuning a proposal they hope will staunch the population decline at Lakeside.

That involves strengthening the school’s ties with the Kahnawake Mohawk territory across the St. Lawrence River.

More than three dozen Mohawk students from Kahnawake currently are already attending Lakeside Academy.

Save Lakeside is proposing incorporating more First Nations-oriented education in the curriculum, as well as more collaboration with local French-language schools that are part of the Marguerite-Bourgeoys school board.

“Let’s say nature is our big issue in the 21st century, and we’ve gone away from it,” Vodanovic said. “Can we make something together — a program that is based on nature and that brings us all together?”

“It could bring the communities together: the French community, the English community and the Mohawk community.”

Vodanovic said the president of the Marguerite-Bourgeoys board is considering the proposal, and Save Lakeside has a meeting on Tuesday in Kahnawake with Mohawk representatives to discuss the initiative. The Quebec regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Ghislain Picard, is also expected to be at that meeting.

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