GNWT suggests school swaps to fit francophones

Instead of spending $28 million on new school additions, the Government of the Northwest Territories wants to swap schools to give francophone students more space.

'We’re open to negotiations,' says head of francophone parents group in Yellowknife

GNWT suggests school swaps to fit francophones 2:21

In June of 2012, the Territorial Supreme Court ordered the Government of the Northwest Territories to build expansions on two francophone schools — one in Yellowknife, the other in Hay River.

The GNWT estimated the additions would cost $28 million.

Now they’re pitching a cheaper alternative: juggling schools to accommodate the growing francophone and shrinking anglophone populations.

Several anglophone schools in the territory have low student enrolment. For example, William McDonald Middle School in Yellowknife is only 35-percent full.

The GNWT has asked the YK1 and South Slave school boards to give up one underused school each.

The YK1 school board is open to the idea.

“The board has debated it, talked about it quite thoroughly over the past couple of months,” says chair John Stephenson. “The approach we've decided to take is to talk to people."

The YK1 school board plans to do that over the next month, involving parents, staff, students and other community stakeholders.

However, the immediate reaction is not positive.

“Quite frankly we don’t see the benefit of having one less school,” Stephenson says. He says a transfer would likely mean no more middle school.

Jacques Lamarche is the president of APADY, the Yellowknife association of parents whose children have the right to a French education.

“We’re open to negotiations,” Larmarche says. “We’re taxpayers as well and we understand that if they’re going to build an addition to the school, that would cost a lot of money.”

The government hopes both boards will agree to the handover before the supreme court hears its appeal of the case in March.

In the meantime, students at high-capacity francophone schools like Allain St-Cyr in Yellowknife, will continue to be bused to the multiplex for gym class.

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