Its population exploding in recent years, Ècole Valois administration might face some tough decisions in the near future when they begin running out of space.
© Herald photo by Tyler Clarke
Ècole Valois parent council president Roberta Sinclair and principal Dominic Rivard are seen outside the school’s upcoming child-care facility, which is expected to open later this year, adding about 20 francophone child-care spaces to the city.
As students made their way between classes during their first day back in school on Tuesday after summer break, principal Dominic Rivard took a few minutes to talk about his school’s growing population.
Just two years ago, the Pre-K-12 francophone school’s population was 145. Last year, the population grew by 20 students to 165.
Last year’s graduating class was made up of only two students, while 22 youngsters were enrolled in kindergarten. Within a few years, the graduating classes will grow into the double digits, Rivard said.
As of Tuesday, 189 students were registered for the current school year -- a figure that doesn’t include the 20-space provincially funded child-care facility set to open at the school later this year.
“It kind of completes our programming,” Rivard said of the facility. “Now we’re able to offer that programming from a very young age -- one year old -- to high school.
“Contrary to some of the other high schools, our daycare isn’t built for our students’ kids. Our daycare is, really, to serve the francophone community in and around Prince Albert.”
Although there are already French immersion facilities in Prince Albert, this is the city’s first francophone child-care facility, he explained.
“Within the francophone schools … it’s culture, it’s community, it’s language, it’s learning the language and living the language and being comfortable to function, work and play in the language,” he said.
Construction of the child-care facility is expected to be completed within a few weeks, after which time they’ll begin staffing and training for the new facility, which is expected to open within a couple months.
In August, the school had the local francophone society move out of the space they used within their building in order to help accommodate the child-care facility, but space remains a challenge, Rivard said.
“With the increase of students that we’ve seen, we’re starting to run out of room already,” he said.
One option, which they’ll have to look at “sooner rather than later” if their numbers continue their upswing will be the construction of a separate high school, Rivard said.
From a parent point of view, I really enjoy challenging the children with a second language, especially when they’re young and developing. Roberta Sinclair, parent council president
After expanding their current building by four classrooms about three years ago there’s little additional room on their property for further expansion, Rivard said.
But, why the recent upswing in francophone enrolment necessitating such expansion?
“From a parent point of view, I really enjoy challenging the children with a second language, especially when they’re young and developing,” parent council president Roberta Sinclair said.
Sinclair has three children enrolled at the school – one in kindergarten, one in Grade 3 and the eldest in Grade 4.
“I think any advantage you can get in the employment world is wonderful for them,” she said. “It’s easier when the kids are young. They absorb so much.”
Quite often, the French language skips a generation, Rivard said -- a trend that appears to be ending, with more people finding relevance in French.
“You’re sitting in class anyway, all day long,” he said. “You might as well sit here for the exact same amount of time as in an English school and when you’re done you finish with a second language, and you still speak English perfectly well.”
Anther big sell for Ècole Valois is the local francophone community, Sinclair said, adding that they band together with things like homework support groups and even French language support for parents, to help them catch up with their kids.
But, it’s not all about French, Rivard said, noting that as residents of Saskatchewan, English language skills remain important -- something they address with English classes.
“We switch from French to English without an accent,” he said.
Ècole Valois is part of the Conseil des écoles fransaskoises -- a province-wide francophone school division. It is Prince Albert’s only francophone school.