When it comes to choosing a secondary school, parents in Montreal are spoiled for choice, so much so that more than 30% of elementary students continue their secondary education privately. Data that the service center lists as one of its “vulnerabilities” in a document recently sent to parents which presents “the issues and the context influencing educational success” in its schools. If there are 30 private primary schools for 126 public schools on the territory of the CSSDM, things are very different in secondary school. There are then 27 private secondary schools and 29 public schools trying to attract students.

A quarter of the 16,000 employees of the CSSDM (26%) do not live in Montreal, we read in the document, which also specifies that like everywhere else, we are experiencing a shortage of personnel. However, we read that while there is a “strong sense of belonging to the school”, that towards the CSSDM is “weak”. Retaining staff is “difficult”, it says. The document drawn from consultations conducted last fall also notes that “customer service [is] to be improved” at the CSSDM and that the service center has a “negative reputation inherited from the past”.

Among Montreal students, school changes and moves are frequent, in particular because of the “difficult access to housing caused by the rapid gentrification in certain neighborhoods and the shortage of affordable housing”, we also read. Similarly, the socio-economic realities are “sometimes very different from one school to another, occasionally within the same neighborhood”, we continue. As for the deprivation indices, used in particular to determine the number of students in each class, they “do not necessarily represent the social reality on the ground”. Since 2016, the number of schools deemed disadvantaged has decreased in Montreal.

The particular reality of Montreal schools is often mentioned, and for good reason: the students who attend the largest school service center in the province are of all origins. The CSSDM document notes that nearly half of its students (47%) have a mother tongue other than French. At home, 30% of them do not speak French with their parents. As a result, it reads, there is a “challenge for allophone parents to become actively involved in their child’s school life due to the language barrier”.

Since the start of the 2022 school year, the Montreal school service center has had to open no less than 118 groups for students in reception classes and francization. In total, more than 2,150 students were added to those who were already registered. Faced with this “great influx of students from immigrant backgrounds”, there is a “danger of reaching the reception capacity of the establishments”, we read.

Premier Fran├žois Legault recently questioned the portrayal of dilapidated schools, saying he has “doubts” about how the condition of buildings is decided. At the Montreal School Service Center, the average age of the buildings is 71 years old and their dilapidation is listed as one of the “particularities” of the CSS. The document notes that the housing stock is heritage and that there is “little land available in Montreal to build new schools and annexes”. In several schools, it also reads, the premises are “used to full capacity”.

It is as part of the drafting of its 2023-2027 Commitment to Success Plan that the CSSDM published this document, sent to all parents last week. By law, all school service centers in the province must produce such a plan. The CSSDM must adopt its own next June.