It may not be the most lush, nor the most welcoming patch of grass in the city, but it is none-the-less the school yard for 200 students who attend James Lyng, the high school nearly tucked under the Turcot interchange in Saint-Henri. In the spring they host a celebratory end-of-year BBQ here. Last year the students in the Green Team built composter and placed it in the space. Some of the younger students say they like to play in the little tunnels under the thick vines that grow over the chain-link fence.
When I began developing an urban planning unit for the secondary 1 geography class, in collaboration with CURA and Youth Fusion, the schoolyard seemed like a good place to start. Students were overflowing with creative ideas to improve their school yard: benches and picnic tables; a flower garden, more trees and fruit-bearing bushes; birdhouses, a graffiti wall, a fountain. As the students’ ideas began taking shape in 3D models, I suggested looking for a schoolyard greening grant so that the they could see some of their proposals realized in the real world.
But my hopes were dashed when I learned that the land, which belongs to the English Montreal School Board, is going to be expropriated by the Quebec government as part of the Turcot project. “We’re going to be losing this land for sure,” said Richard Lalonde, the EMSB School Commissioner responsible for this district. He added that the EMSB is currently trying to negotiate a better deal for compensation.
The MTQ’s map of Turcot “ameliorations” does not show how the schoolyard land will be used in the project.
Photos by James Lyng secondary 1 students, 2010.
Full Disclosure: I sit on the James Lyng Governing Board as a non-voting community representative.