Dieppe parents packed a public meeting on Monday night to discuss the overcrowding students at francophone schools in the city are facing.
The Francophone South district education council and parents met at École Carrefour de l’Acadie, one of several schools that are struggling with overcrowded classrooms in the southeastern city.
The elementary school, which was built for roughly 600 students, is already beyond its capacity with 715 students this year.
The school is using two classrooms from the attached École Mathieu-Martin. Since 2011, the elementary school’s population has jumped by 28 per cent.
Gilles Bourque, the chairperson of the Francophone South district education council, says the overcrowding has not reached a critical point at the school yet, but it will in a few years.
“We’re seeing that we would be about 830 students in 2017. If there is nothing done for a school that was built for 600 and some students and then we see that same growth happening in Mathieu-Martin,” Bourque said.
Based on enrolment numbers at local elementary schools, the overcrowding problem is likely to become progressively worse at the city’s junior high and high schools.
The immediate solution for the overcrowding issue at École Carrefour de l’Acadie is unclear.
Bourque says portable classrooms aren’t an option because there is nowhere on the school’s property to put them and the decision to borrow classrooms between the junior high and high school is only a temporary fix.
The chairperson says a new school is one option that is being studied and could be presented in upcoming provincial budgets.
Marc LeBlanc is one of the parents who attended the public meeting on Monday night.
LeBlanc’s children don’t go to École Carrefour de l’Acadie but they will in the future. That’s why LeBlanc wants to become president of a new committee that will look at the overcrowding issue.
He says he is worried about what will happen to these crowded schools in the coming years.
"It can impact access to certain classes like gym," LeBlanc said.
"It impacts the way the meals are handed out in the cafeteria...access to music class and things like that. And plus the school wasn’t designed to accommodate as many students as what we’re going to see here in a few years."
Rapidly growing districts
The district education council’s Bourque says Dieppe is rapidly growing with many people from the northern part of the province moving to the city.
Dieppe saw its population jump by 25.6 per cent to 23,310 people between 2006 and 2011, according to the latest census
Dieppe’s schools aren’t the only ones feeling the crunch. Bourque said he's seeing the same trend at francophone schools in Fredericton, Moncton and Saint John.
Fredericton’s only francophone elementary school, École des Bâtisseurs, was full three years after it opened in 2007. The school is expanding by about 20 students per year.
The provincial government announced a new francophone elementary school would be built in Fredericton. The school is scheduled to open in September 2015 and is going to accommodate 570 students.
In 2012, the education department announced a new francophone elementary school would be built in Quispamsis. That school will take in students from Rothesay and Quispamsis, instead of having them transported to Saint John.
Saint John’s Samuel-de-Champlain school had 697 students as of September 2012.
LeBlanc said he is hoping to get parents involved to make overcrowding at francophone schools an issue during September’s provincial election.